I recently reported that frozen fruits and vegetables are perhaps even healthier than the fresh kind, and my freezer has since become a mecca for broccoli, spinach and tropical fruit blends. I now plan on constructing the ultimate freezer, where an assortment of healthy foods can escape spoilage until they inevitably enter my mouth. Of course, this means figuring out what other foods remain healthy in their frozen forms, and since we already know about fruits and veggies, meat seems like the next reasonable candidate.
Good news: Freezing fresh meat is just fine. “Freezing meat is actually a great way to preserve its nutritional properties if you know you don’t have time to eat it right away,” explains dietitian Abbey Sharp. “I recommend vacuum sealing meats and freezing them in a deep freezer or a freezer that isn’t constantly opened and closed, so it freezes evenly, quickly and without air. If meat is allowed to freeze slowly or incompletely, it forms large ice crystals that can damage the muscle fibres and cause moisture loss when thawed and cooked.” The end result is an extremely sad steak that tastes like a piece of cardboard.
Remember, though, that freezing a piece of meat should be a one-time thing. “You should never freeze, thaw and then refreeze meat, so if it’s a very large portion that you can’t finish in one go, cut it into pieces and freeze each portion separately,” Sharp suggests.
Speaking of thawing, you should defrost meat overnight in the refrigerator, since keeping meat at room temperature for more than two hours can result in bacterial growth and puking out your insides. In a pinch, you could also place the frozen meat in a sealed Ziploc bag and put it in a large bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and each pound of meat should thaw in about an hour. Thinner cuts of meat can also be thawed quickly in a hot water bath, however, hot water should be avoided when dealing with bigger slabs of meat, since it can cook the surface and result in that earlier mentioned bacterial growth. Similarly, while tossing a frozen slab of meat in the microwave is tempting, doing so can overcook certain sections and, once again, result in bacterial growth, unless you cook it immediately after thawing.
Of course, the real nice thing about frozen meat is that it lasts super long. Frozen steaks are good for between four months and a year, frozen chicken can stay in the freezer for up to a year and lean fish, like tuna and tilapia, can last in the freezer for six months.
What about the already frozen meat at the grocery store, though? Is that stuff any less healthy than the fresh versions in the butcher section? “Some pre-frozen meat is sometimes more processed and higher in salt, so just check the package to ensure there’s no salt or additives,” Sharp says. You can see, for example, that these pre-frozen beef patties from Walmart contain 80 milligrams of sodium per patty, whereas fresh meat should theoretically come unsalted. That said, 80 milligrams might as well be nothing in the grand scheme of sodium intake, and there are no other artificial ingredients hidden away in there, which is a good sign.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though. As I’ve written before, even meat products that claim to be 100 percent beef often turn out to be much less appetizing when you look at where that beef comes from. Also, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that pretty much all meats — especially processed meats, which are carcinogenic — should be consumed in moderation, since the fats they contain contribute to heart disease. Plus, Big Meat does some truly nauseating things to ensure they provide enough meat to meet America’s carnivorous desires, so while it seems that frozen meat can stand up to the fresh stuff, at least nutritionally speaking, know that the fresh stuff can mess you up pretty bad, too.
Either way, looking forward to wrapping up my meat tight and inserting it into a dripping ice box later. Wow, is it hot in here, or is it just me?