Here at WagyuWeTrust, we enjoy cooking and devouring our favourite cuts fairly quickly, but it's not always ideal when you buy in bulk or have more than you anticipated. Can you freeze beef without it losing quality, then?
The answer is yes, but you can prevent your steak from turning to mush while you're defrosting it by adhering to a few guidelines and suggestions.
How long can it be frozen?
Depending on the cut and size, you can freeze beef for various amounts of time, but according to the majority of food authorities, raw beef can be kept in your freezer for up to six months. The larger or primal cuts are a good example of this. Small slices shouldn't be frozen for longer than four months, like those excellent steaks of yours. And the maximum shelf life for beef mince is three months.
This is due to the way that beef retains water and what happens to this water during freezing and defrosting. Because of this, there is a science involved in freezing beef pieces.
How to properly freeze steak (including other beef cuts)
The ideal method for freezing beef is to vacuum-pack it and promptly freeze it at a very low temperature. You run the risk of degrading the quality of the beef and exposing it to freezer burn if it is loosely wrapped and frozen slowly (or barely frozen).
The water in meat develops into ice crystals that grow huge and rip apart the fibre or muscle cell structure as it is progressively frozen. Upon freezing, this damage causes moisture loss.
However, even smaller ice crystals are produced when meat is frozen quickly (using techniques like blast freezing and temperatures well below zero). This prevents your steak from having that mushy texture from slow freezing and results in less water loss when thawing.
Although not everyone has access to blast freezers, we can ensure that our beef is well-packed to prevent freezer burn and excessive drying out.
Refreezing after defrosting
Refreezing defrosted meat is not advised unless it has been cooked first for a number of reasons, including:
- Each time frozen meat is defrosted and then refrozen, the quality deteriorates.
- Ice crystals are formed inside the meat's structure as a result of freezing (as meat contains a high percentage of water).
- When the meat is defrosted, these ice crystals rip open the fibre and cause bleeding.
- If done repeatedly, the meat will have an extremely dry feel.
Additionally, meat that has been thawed and kept at room temperature shouldn't ever be refrozen.
What about freezing cooked beef?
Due to a phenomenon known as flavour taint, cooked meat may only be stored in the freezer for about 2-3 months longer than raw meat. This happens as a result of some flavours oxidising in the freezer over time.
Similar to raw beef, cooked beef should be tightly packed to prevent freezer burn and flavour deterioration.
What about beef that has matured (dry-aged) without cooking?
Though some people believe that freezing dry-aged beef is a terrible idea since it can make your already dry-aged steak even drier, the truth is that having less water in the cut makes it easier to freeze. It isn't impacted in the same way because it lacks the water that a typical fresh cut of beef has. Having said that, freezing steaks repeatedly or for extended durations is not recommended because it degrades their quality over time.
In conclusion, you can definitely freeze your favourite beef steaks at home to extend their shelf life. So you won't have to share your meat tray with buddies the next time you win one. Simply wrap those delicious steaks in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer.