What you need to know about storing meat

Here are some answers to questions you may have about storing meat.

Q: What should I look for when buying packaged meat?

  • Packaging must not be torn or damaged.
  • Always check ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates. It is better to eat meat within the suggested time.
  • Make sure the meat is well chilled, especially with regard to power outages.
  • Avoid meat that has discoloured or that has an ‘off’ odour.

Shopping tip

Shop for non-perishable food first. Shop for meat last.

Q: Why should you take meat out of the plastic wrapping when storing it in the fridge?

  • Plastic makes meat sweat. If you intend to cook the meat on the day of purchase, there is no need to take it out of the plastic wrapping. If you are storing the meat for longer, transfer it to a dish and loosely cover to allow airflow.
  • Place it in the meat compartment or on the bottom shelf to ensure that it does not drip onto other foods.
  • Don’t put raw and cooked meat together in the same compartment of the fridge. Cover cooked food, but allow airflow.
  • Fresh meat will keep 3 – 5 days in the fridge. Cooked meat 5 – 7 days.
  • Meat that is going straight into the freezer after being purchased can remain in its packaging.

Q: Is the temperature of your fridge and freezer important?

Yes! Regularly check that both the fridge and freezer operate at these temperatures:

  • Fridge temperature: 4ºC to 5ºC
  • Freezer temperature: -18ºC

Q: What’s the deal with freezing and refreezing meat?

  • If frozen meat has defrosted, refreezing is not recommended unless it is cooked first.
  • Never refreeze meat which has been thawed and held at room temperature.
  • Depending on the cut, uncooked meat can be stored up to 6 months in the freezer. Larger cuts, like roasts, can be safely stored for up to 6 months. Smaller cuts, such as beef steaks, should not be frozen for more than 4 months. Minced meat should not be frozen for more than 3 months.
  • Freezer storage times for cooked meats are shorter than raw meat due to what’s known as flavour taint. Certain flavours oxidise in the freezer after a period of time.

Q: How should I defrost frozen meat?

In the refrigerator: Plan ahead as this is the slowest thawing technique. Small frozen items may thaw overnight in the refrigerator, while larger items will take significantly longer. Meat that has been thawed in the fridge will keep for a few days.

In a microwave on the defrost setting: Plan to cook the food immediately after it has thawed in a microwave, because some areas of the food may have begun cooking during the defrost cycle.


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