Is It Safe To Eat 3-Year-Old Frozen Meat?
If you’re anything like me, you have a freezer full of meat that’s been there for longer than you’d like to admit. Every time I go to clean out the freezer, I find myself asking the same question: is it safe to eat this? What about this 3-year-old frozen steak? I know I’m not the only one wondering this!
Is It Safe? Will It Be Tasty?
The answer, it turns out, isn’t that complicated. Meat that has been properly stored in a freezer — well packed and kept at 0 degrees F — can be safe to eat indefinitelyUNL Frozen Food Safety: https://food.unl.edu/frozen-meat-safety. However, the quality of the meat will start to decline after a few weeks, so the meat may be safe to eat, but the taste and texture of the meat will suffer, and it could even be less nutritious. So if you’re planning on frozen eating meat that’s more than 3 or 4 months old, you may need to cook it extra long or add some extra flavoring.
The big “if” here is if the meat has been kept at or below the freezing point. If your freezer isn’t working that well or if you have taken the meat out, thawed it, and re-frozen it, the safety of the meat can drop seriously.
If you meat has been kept properly cold and sealed, perhaps in a high quality chest freezer, then quality is the next concern. Here are the guideline from the University of Nebraska for meat taste and textureUNL Frozen Meat PDF: https://food.unl.edu/Food_Safety/frozen-meat-safety-food-pantry.pdf:
- Ham: 2 months
- Ground meat (any kind): 3-4 months
- Sausage uncooked: 4 months
- Fish and shellfish: 6 months
- Chicken and turkey: 9 months
- Steaks, chops, and roasts: 12 months
You can see that ground meat tends to go bad more quickly than other types of meat, so you shouldn’t keep it in the freezer for more than 4 months unless you are OK with a quality drop.
Finally, it’s important to remember that even if the meat is technically still safe to eat, it may not taste very good. If you’re unsure whether or not the meat is still good, your best bet is to err on the side of caution and throw it out. This might occur in the case of a briefly broken freezer or if freezer burn has damaged the food severely.
When it comes to frozen meat, there are a lot of variables to consider. The type of meat, how long it’s been in the freezer, and whether or not it’s been properly stored can all affect its safety and quality. If you’re unsure whether or not your frozen meat is still good, your best bet is to play it safe and throw it out.