How Long Does Meat Last in the Freezer?

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By: Tom Valenti


Do you ever struggle with knowing how long meat last in the freezer? It’s all too easy to forget about the ground beef in the back and find it six months later. You start asking yourself questions like “Is it still alright to eat?”.

Well, depending on what type of meat you’re storing and how it’s handled and stored, your meat in the freezer can last anywhere from a few months up to 12! 

To help dispel any confusion, let’s dive into some tips for freezing meat so that you know exactly when it’s time for freshness and flavor.


Does Meat in the Freezer Go Bad?

Does Meat in the Freezer Go Bad

The USDA states that meat can be stored in the freezer at 0°F (-18°C) for a long time (up to 1 year) without going bad because the low temperature has protected it from spoilage.

However, the quality of the meat will decrease over time due to freezer burn and changes in flavor and texture.

How Long Does Meat Last in the Freezer?

So, how long does meat last in the freezer? Keep in mind that different types of meat have different shelf lives in the freezer.

As a rule of thumb, these are the general estimates for how long meat last in the freezer:

  • Hot dogs, bacon, sausages, luncheon meats, and ham can be frozen for 1-2 months.
  • Leftovers and cooked food can be frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Fish and seafood such as shrimp, salmon, and tuna can be frozen for 2-3 months.
  • Soup broth, stews, and cooked dishes can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Ground beef, poultry, and pork can be frozen for up to 4 months.
  • Beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and steaks can be frozen for 6-12 months.

If you are finding out the shelf life of a specific type of meat, you can check it here.

How to Store Meat in the Freezer?

How to Store Meat in the Freezer

Meat can last a long time in the freezer with the right preparation and storage techniques. So, how to store meat in the freezer? 

First, you will need to package the meat properly to keep it from freezer burn and other damage that can occur in the freezer.

For best results, wrap each piece of meat individually using plastic wrap or aluminum foil. You can also use vacuum-sealing bags for extra protection against freezer burn. Make sure that there is no air left in the packaging before freezing

You should also label the packages with the date it was frozen.

Next, place the packages in a freezer-safe container or bag and store them in the coldest part of your freezer. This will help keep temperatures consistent and prevent spoilage of other food items in your freezer.

Finally, don’t forget to use up the food within the suggested timeframe.

What is The Best Way to Safely Thaw Meat in the Freezer?

The best way to safely thaw meat in the freezer is by thawing it in the refrigerator. Place the frozen meat on a plate or pan, and then put it in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours until it has fully thawed.

Never defrost your meat at room temperature, as this will create a risk of bacterial growth. If you’re in a rush, you can also thaw frozen meat using the cold-water method or microwave it on the defrost setting.

Can Meat be Refrozen After Being Thaw?

The USDA states that meat in the freezer can be refrozen as long as it is still at or below 40°F (4.5°C). However, this will cause some texture and flavor changes, so it’s best to use up the food within a few days of thawing.

If you’re looking for maximum freshness and flavor, it’s best to consume the meat within its original timeframe before freezing.

How Long Can I Keep Meat in the Fridge Before Keep It in the Freezer?

The general rule of thumb is that meat can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days before freezing. This will help maintain its quality and flavor, however any longer than that can cause spoilage and foodborne illnesses.

If you’re unsure about whether a piece of meat has gone bad, follow your nose and trust your instinct. If it smells off or looks questionable, discards it immediately.

Whenever in doubt, keep the safety of your family first and throw out anything that has been stored for too long.


Can I Keep the Meat that is labeled “Keep Frozen” in the Refrigerator?

No, if a piece of meat is labeled “Keep Frozen” it should not be stored in the refrigerator. The cold temperatures in the freezer will help keep the meat fresh and prevent spoilage.

Is Meat Still Good After 2 Years in the Freezer?

No, the USDA recommends that meat should not be stored in the freezer for longer than 12 months. After this time period, the quality of the meat will diminish and there is an increased risk of spoilage and foodborne illnesses.

How do You Know If Frozen Meat Is Safe?

If your frozen meat is still cold and has no visible signs of spoilage, it should be safe to eat. However, if there are any signs of freezer burn or mold present on the meat, it should not be consumed.

It’s also important to make sure that the packaging has not been compromised in any way before consuming the meat. If the packaging is damaged, it could cause bacteria to contaminate the meat and make it unsafe for consumption.

Is It Safe to Refreeze Meat?

Yes, as long as the temperature of the frozen meat is still at or below 40°F (4.5°C) it should be safe to refreeze. However, it’s important to note that refreezing will reduce the quality and flavor of the meat, so it’s best to consume it within a few days of thawing.

Can I Freeze Raw and Cooked Meat Together?

No, for safety reasons it is not recommended to freeze raw and cooked meat together. Cross-contamination can occur when raw meat touches cooked food, and this can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Final Thought

Keeping meat in the freezer can be quite useful and cost-effective. Buying larger portions of meat and freezing it is a great way to save money on groceries while still getting high-quality meals. It also helps reduce food waste since you can preserve any leftovers until you’re ready to eat them another day.

While there are varying opinions on how long meat will last in the freezer, by following these tips and understanding how long meat lasts in the freezer, you can be sure to store your meat safely and enjoy its freshness for months to come!

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Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

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