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Why should I try this?

Do you ever plan to have a roast chicken at home but decided, last minute, to pop out for lunch instead? - then realised the uncooked chicken is still in your fridge uneaten. Or you cooked beef or some pork chops and wondered what to do with the uncooked portions left in the pack that you didn’t need? 

An easy solution is to freeze it instead and save it for another day. This is the same for most meat and poultry. This guide will help you learn how to freeze and defrost meat and poultry safely.

Freezing your food acts like a pause button, giving you more time to eat it and saving it from the bin. Not only does it lock in freshness and preserve quality and flavour, but it’s also perfectly safe providing it’s defrosted correctly. Your food won’t deteriorate in the freezer, and most bacteria can’t grow in it, so it’s a great way to buy yourself extra time and save delicious food for later!
 

200k
tonnes of edible meat is thown away every year in UK homes

How do I do this?

Freezing meat and poultry

You can freeze food right up to its Use By date, so if you’ve had a last-minute dinner invitation and there’s a couple of chicken breasts sitting in the fridge that need using up today, just pop them in the freezer to be enjoyed another day.

To freeze meat
  1. Place the meat in an airtight container or you can keep it in the original packaging. 
  2. Remember to add a label that includes what it is and the date you froze your food to make it easy for you to keep track of what you have.
  3.  It’s best to use up food in your freezer within 3 to 6 months, but it’s worth checking the packaging for any freezing guidelines specific to that product.

Defrosting meat and poultry

Many of us are a little unsure how to defrost meat and poultry, but there are two safe and super easy ways to defrost meat: in the microwave or in the fridge.

To defrost meat and poultry in the microwave

Defrosting your meat and poultry in the microwave is a quick and convenient option and it allows you to stay flexible with your meal plans. If you want to be spontaneous and use frozen meat right now, the microwave is your friend! 

  • Double check the packaging for microwave defrosting instructions like guidance on turning, stirring or standing times, for example. Otherwise, follow these simple steps:
  1. If you froze your meat/poultry in its original packaging, remove the packaging.
  2. Pop your meat/poultry on a microwave-safe plate and cover it with a non-metallic cover. 
  3. Microwave using the ‘defrost’ setting or a meat/poultry defrosting programme directly before cooking.
  4. Make sure your meat/poultry is fully thawed and always cook food that’s been defrosted in the microwave straightaway.
To defrost meat and poultry in the fridge
  1. Make sure your fridge is set to 5℃ or below, as this helps to keep your meat/poultry (and everything else in your fridge!) safe and fresher for longer. 
  2. Put your frozen meat/poultry at the bottom of the fridge, ideally 24 hours before you need it. 
  3. Make sure you allow enough time for your food to defrost properly – don’t forget that large items (such as a Christmas turkey) can take up to four days to defrost fully in the fridge!

Once your food is completely defrosted, use within 24 hours.
 

Remember to add a meal from the freezer to your meal plan
to ensure you use up what’s in your freezer.

What you may begin to notice

By following these simple steps, you will quickly gain a good level of confidence around freezing and defrosting your meat and poultry safely. This will give you much more flexibility at home around food and will help you save your food from the bin. What could be better than getting the best value from your food and every penny you’ve spent on it.

So remember to press pause on your meat and poultry by freezing it and keep it fresh for another day.

Remember to take a look at some of our other How do I guides to see how you can make more of your freezer and other top tips.
 

Frequently asked questions

  • How can I use my defrosted meat? 

    The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether your meat or poultry was frozen or fresh before cooking: you can still use the leftovers to make a delicious new meal (such as a curry) which can then be frozen. If you’re reheating defrosted cooked meat or poultry, make sure it’s piping hot before serving and only reheat it once.

  • Will my frozen food still taste as good?

    Freezing food is a great way to make sure all the food you buy gets used, and if you follow our simple steps, it will taste just as good as when it’s fresh!