Everything You Need To Know About Frozen Meat

When you order from Gibralter Farms, the meat you receive will come frozen. This preserves the quality of the meat for your use over a longer period of time.

While there are some marketing claims that may want you to believe that fresh is superior to frozen meat, in our opinion, properly frozen and thawed meat offers a great eating experience equal to or better than a fresh meat product.

To understand a little bit more about the quality of frozen meat, it helps to go over a little of the science (nothing too complex, we promise!).

The science of frozen meat

We’ve all likely had the unpleasant experience of buying fresh meat at the store and not getting to it for a few days and then finding it pretty funky smelling when we open the package. Freezing meat avoids this by locking in the freshness of the meat shortly after the meat is processed, thereby stopping microbial and biochemical action in the meat that leads to this spoilage.

Proper freezing methods will get the meat frozen as quickly as possible. Here comes the science part:

Water has the unique characteristic of being less dense as a solid than as a liquid. It’s why ice cubes float to the top of your drink and lakes and rivers cover over with ice.

This is due to the crystal formation and expansion process that occurs when water changes to ice. You may have witnessed the power of this expansion when placing a full bottle of water in the freezer and the bottle being broken open when frozen.

The faster water freezes, the smaller the ice crystals will be and the less expansion that will occur. In meat, water is contained in the cells of the muscle. Proper freezing will form ice crystals smaller than the size of the cell, preventing the cells from exploding like the water bottle in the freezer. Thereby, holding on to the moisture and quality.

Improperly frozen meat will have a large amount of leached liquid when thawed. (A little bit of liquid is to be expected and is the juices from within and around the cells and not blood.)

How long can meat stay frozen and still be good?

While freezing meat locks in freshness, no preservation method is perfect. A slow oxidation and drying of the meat can occur, called freezer burn. Vacuum sealed packaging, like that used for our meat, greatly reduces the potential impact of freezer burn. In general, meat should maintain its freshness in the freezer for up to a year and be safe to eat for a significantly longer time.

How much freezer space do you need?

Frozen meat allows the enjoyment of the product over a longer period of time, but also requires freezer storage space.

While it may seem like there is not a lot of room in your freezer, space can usually be found to store more meat than you would think. The rule of thumb is 1 cubic foot of storage space for every 35 to 40 pounds of meat. Top and bottom refrigerator/freezers have around 4 to 5 cubic feet of freezer storage capacity. Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers have a bit more with around 6 to 10 cubic feet of freezer storage.

Freezer Storage Space Required for Meat Bundle Sizes

Pounds of Meat in a Bundle6112232
Cubic Feet of Storage Required0.
Approximate Dimensions (inches)12 x 6 x 512 x 6 x 812 x 12 x 816 x 12 x 8

Percentage of Freezer Needed to Store Meat Bundle Sizes

Pounds of Meat in a Bundle6112233
4 cubic feet 5%8%15%23%
6 cubic feet4%5%10%15%
8 cubic feet3%4%8%11%
10 cubic feet2%3%6%9%

How should I transport frozen meat?

If you are picking up and bringing your meat home from somewhere, it is best to have coolers to place the meat in to prevent temporary thawing.

This will limit problems where the meat partially thaws and refreezes slowly, creating damage to the meat as described above.

Modern coolers are capable of keeping meat frozen for long periods of time. Insulated bags will even be suitable for transporting frozen meat for short trips.

If you are transporting meat on trips longer than a few hours, the addition of dry ice to the coolers will ensure that the meat stays frozen.

Dry ice can be purchased at some grocery stores and requires care in handling due to the extreme temperatures (-109 degrees Fahrenheit). More info on using dry ice can be found here.

What is the best way to thaw frozen meat?

Getting meat to a thawed state is a simple matter, but one that is best done with a little planning.

The simplest method is to move the frozen meat from the freezer to the refrigerator, placing the meat on a plate or dish to contain any juices that might escape. For ground beef and steaks, moving the meat 1 to 2 days ahead of cooking is optimal. For roasts, 2 to 3 days is best.

If you need to speed up the process, place the meat in a large bowl in the sink. (If the meat is not in a vacuum sealed package, place the meat in a zip top bag.) Fill the bowl with cold water, then leave a small trickle of cold water running into the bowl (make sure the sink drain is open).

Alternatively, you can dump and replace the cold water every half hour. Ground beef and steaks can be thawed in 1 to 2 hours using this method. Roasts will take a little longer from 2 to 4 hours, depending on size.

Do not try and speed up the process by using hot water. This can start cooking the meat and gets the meat into murky temperatures for food safety concerns.

While it is possible to defrost meat quickly in the microwave, it is best to use one of the above two methods. Defrosting in the microwave can easily lead to an uneven thaw and partial cooking of the edges which will deter from the quality of the cooking and eating experience.

Some meat can even be cooked directly out of the freezer. Thin steaks and preformed hamburger patties can be cooked when frozen, provided some extra care is taken to adjust the temperature and cooking time to ensure desired doneness is reached within the meat.

Did we miss anything?

Do you have more questions about frozen meat? Send us an email or message us on Facebook or Instagram.

John and Sarah Gilbert farm with their family in North Central Iowa. They care for pigs, cows, and the land to bring you beef and pork you can love. They have a passion for cooking and helping others develop the skills they need to put healthy and delicious home-cooked meals on the table. They can be contacted by email and through Facebook and Instagram.