Freezing and refrigerating food


Q: Does freezing kill bacteria?
No, it only prevents any further growth. Heat destroys bacteria.

Q: If frozen meat has defrosted, can it be refrozen?
It’s not recommended unless it is cooked first, for a number of reasons:

  • The quality suffers each time frozen meat is defrosted and refrozen. Freezing creates ice crystals within the structure of the meat (as meat contains a high percentage of water). These ice crystals rupture the fibre which causes the meat to bleed when defrosted. If repeated, the texture of the meat will be very dry.
  • There can also be microbial risk as a result of refreezing meat without firstly cooking it.
Q: What about vacuum packed meat?
Vacuum packed meat has a longer storage life than fresh meat because all air is removed from the packaging, thus retarding microbial growth. However, as a result, the meat develops what’s known as confinement odour. This isn’t harmful and will disappear after a little while.

This type of meat is purple in colour due to the lack of oxygen in the packaging. Once removed from the package and exposed to oxygen, the red colour (bloom) returns after a little while.

Q: What is the maximum storage time for frozen meat, and what happens if it goes beyond the recommended time?
Freezing prolongs storage time because it prevents microbial growth. Recommended storage times relate to eating quality more than food safety. After a certain period of time, frozen food starts to dry out, so the smaller the item of food the faster the effect. That’s why, for example, it’s recommended to freeze mince for up to 3 months, and roasts up to 6 months. Beyond this time, the meat will be safe to eat but will be very dry.

Q: Why is it recommended to take meat out of plastic when storing in the fridge (as opposed to freezer)?
Plastic will make the meat sweat. If you intend to cook meat the day it’s purchased, there isn’t any need to take it out of the plastic wrap. However, if you are planning to store it for longer, the meat should be transferred to a non-plastic dish and covered with foil or loosely covered with plastic to allow some air flow.

Q: Why is it that freezer storage times for cooked meals are shorter than raw meat?
It’s due to what’s known as flavour taint. Certain flavours oxidise in the freezer after a period of time. The most common are onion and garlic. As most cooked dishes contain these ingredients, it’s recommended to store for no longer than 1 month to prevent off flavours occurring.

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