Freezers are probably one of the most useful modern conveniences, without them how could we plan ahead and stock-pile what we need. Part of being a responsible wholesale meat supplier is ensuring that every precaution is taken to assure food safety, but it’s what you do with it afterwards that guarantees continued safety from storage to freezing to cooking. Too often we freeze foods without following the correct procedures or we leave items in the freezer indefinitely not knowing if they’re still safe to eat. If this is you, and I’m sure we’re all guilty of this from time to time, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind whether you’re buying from your wholesaler or local store.
Fresh meat should always be the last thing you buy on your list ensuring that the products remain refrigerated until the very last moment. They should feel cold to the touch – if they feel warm or room temperature it means they haven’t been stored correctly. Make sure that none of the wrapping is punctured or torn, and if you buy the product on or very close to the sell-by date, either cook it straight away or freeze it immediately.
If meat is wrapped in cling film or similar it can be kept in the fridge until its sell-by date or frozen for up to a fortnight, but if you want to keep the item frozen for longer it needs to be repackaged in plastic freezer bags with as much of the air removed as possible. Be sure to label and date the item so that you keep track of what’s passing through your freezer and know which item to use first – the best practise is to follow the first in first out principle. If packaged correctly and if a freezer stays at -18 °C or below, meats can be kept for several months: beef roasts for 6-12 months, steaks and chops for 4-6 months, stew meats for 3-6 months; mince for 3-4 months; pork for up to 6 months; sausages for up to 2 months; and a whole chicken for up to 12 months, while chicken pieces can last up to 9 months.
The best way to defrost meat is to either let it defrost slowly in the fridge – it’s important to keep the food cold to prevent bacteria growing – or to defrost it in cold water, but make sure it’s properly sealed so that no water can enter the packaging. If you opt to defrost meat in the microwave, be sure to cook it immediately afterwards – microwaves don’t heat food evenly so some areas may be hotter or partially cooked which will allow bacteria to thrive.
It’s also imperative to clean all utensils and cutting boards before you start prepping the raw meat.
by Belinda Ollewagen