Lean fresh meat is an integral part of a healthy diet. Beef, mutton and lamb are generally classified as red meats. They are a vital source of protein, iron, zinc and a host of B vitamins. Poultry and veal fall under the term white meat. In order to prolong the life of fresh meat purchased from the butcher’s and to preserve nutrients, it is essential to store it properly. This also prevents the contamination of meat by bacteria. Follow these tips for buying and storing fresh meat to ensure a good result.
Choosing a Good Butcher
A good butcher aka meat expert is your most useful ally when it comes to making an appropriate selection of meat. Establishing a friendly rapport with your butcher ensures that you are armed with knowledge before you can make a choice. He can guide you through a selection of cuts suitable for your particular dish and prepare the meat. This translates into a lot less preparation hassle for you in terms of cooking. Take note of the fact that the butcher might charge you extra for ordering any special cuts.
A sensible tip is to purchase meat in bulk, when meat prices are low. This will ensure that you get the best value for money from the meat that you are buying.
After bringing fresh meat home from the butcher’s, it is imperative that you rid the meat or poultry of any dirt particles or unclean matter clinging to it. It is best to immediately remove the meat from the bag you purchased it in. Wash the meat under running water in order to clean it.
Preparing Meat for Freezing
Pack the meat neatly into plastic/ freezer bags. It is vital to exclude all air from the bag lest your meat dries out. The bags should be securely tied. Place the packets in the freezer. A good tip is to pack small quantities into each bag or as is required by the recipe. This ensures that the meat thaws more quickly and one doesn’t end up with any extra thawed quantity that is left over. Label your packets and write the date. The same method applies for poultry.
If you want to preserve the texture of your meat once it is thawed, you have to bear this golden rule in mind. According to Good Housekeeping’s The New Cookery Encyclopedia, “The faster your food is frozen the better the texture when thawed.” Set the temperature of your freezer to below -18 degrees Celsius or 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that smaller ice crystals are formed in the sub zero temperatures as the food freezes rapidly. This makes for better texture once the food is thawed. Larger surfaces of ice will allow moisture to be sucked during cooking, leading to tough, dry pieces of meat. Not a good eating experience.
In order to learn about how long meat items can be stored in the freezer, refer to the meat product storage chart here. This chart also includes other food items.
More Freezing Tips:
- Do not put hot food into the freezer. It will escalate the temperature of other food times stored in the freezer, causing their quality to decline.
- Spread out the meat instead of cramming all the packets close together, until the food items are frozen properly
- Keep the packets that you want to consume first well within your reach. The other food items for later use can be stored further away. Rotate your stock as per your need.
Poultry has to be completely thawed before it meets the heat. In order to thaw meat safely and without running the risk of contamination by bacteria, it is best to thaw it in the fridge. This is a slow thawing option. For faster alternatives, you can also use the microwave. Another option that you can exercise if you are really hard pressed for time is to submerge your leak proof meat packet in cold water. You can replace the water every half an hour to ensure that it maintains its cold temperature.
Refreezing Thawed Meat
If the butcher is selling meat that has been thawed from the freezer, it is not safe to refreeze it raw. It needs to be cooked first.
This brings us to our next point. According to a HUFFPOST article, the USDA declares that it is safe to refreeze thawed meat provided that certain conditions are met. Meat that has been thawed at room temperature or the microwave is definitely excluded from this category. The only meat which qualifies for this purpose is one which has been thawed in the refrigerator. However, it is best not to resort to this fall back option as it leads to a deterioration in taste.
Looking for another interesting read? Discover our Tips and Tricks for Buying and Storing Vegetables.