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Which tastes better: freeze meat then thaw and cook OR cook meat then freeze?

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I have a disdain for freezing meat because I feel that it toughens the meat and tastes inferior to fresh meat. However, whenever there is a good sale on meat I am not opposed to buying a lot and freezing some. So would it taste better to cook it first and then freeze it for consumption later? I say yes but others have told me that they freeze the raw meat and it is just as good as when it was fresh. I don’t agree.

It probably depends on the meat (chicken/beef/fish) as well but does anyone have an opinion?

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  1. Personally, I find frozen cooked meat far inferior in flavor than meat that's been frozen properly.

    For me, "properly" is frozen as quickly as possible after purchase, then a slow defrost in the fridge.

    6 Replies
    1. re: nooodles

      Too many variables go in to this question to have a single blanket answer. "It all depends ....."
      A "Suzy Homemaker" freezer (attached to the residential refrigerator) does a poor job of freezing meat. It is not cold enough and the meat freezes slowly, affecting quality. Adding a lot of meat at once exacerbates the problem.
      Meat that will be cooked into something else, i.e. chili or stew freezes better than meat that is cooked on its own, i.e. a grilled steak. Actually, I cannot imagine freezing a grilled steak without expecting a horrible quality decline making it virtually inedible in that state.
      1. Make your braise and freeze it.
      2. Freeze the meat for a quick saute, defrost and saute it, in that order.

      1. re: Sherri

        Despite your disdain for freezing meat because you think it toughens it, you couldn't be more wrong. Freezing, like cooking and marinating, breaks down protein and cooking meat is nothing more than the breaking down of protein. It simply takes longer than those other methods. I would never freeze a cooked dish with meat in in (say a lasagna) more than a day or two and then refrigeration for that duration is more than sufficient.

        1. re: Sherri

          I'd never freeze grilled or roasted meat, but stews and braises do pretty well. I've made several giant batches of gumbo, posole or chili and frozen them successfully in my paltry little fridge freezer.

          The only fresh meat I usually freeze is pork loin, when I buy a whole packaged one at Costco (there are just two of us to feed here). I open one end of the tube it's packed in and squeeze out about half of it, cut that off, then squeeze the remainder back into the tube (not letting any air get in behind it). I twist and tie the end shut and put it in the freezer. Then I cut the removed portion into a good-sized roast plus maybe six chops. Two or four of the chops I put into a quart Ziploc, squeeze as much air out as possible and put it in the freezer. These I'll use within the week. Then I lard the roast and put it in brine for the next day, and cook the remaining chop for supper. Like I'm doing right now...

          1. re: Will Owen

            I can see how ice crystals could break down the meat fibers but there is a big problem with it leaking the meat juices and making it dry. That’s why I tend to find that the meat is tougher because it is not as juicy.

            It seems to me that cooked meat has already had some of the moisture cooked out of it so that it isn’t badly affected by freezing. I have found roasted chicken to be perfectly fine with freezing and thawing out for eating later. Perhaps that is only really applicable to roasted chicken but strangely enough I have had great results with grilled steak when done rare. I didn’t intend to freeze leftover grilled steak but I placed it directly under a vent in the refrigerator and it froze. I defrosted it in the microwave and reheated it without any problems.

            1. re: ammoniasmith

              You may be on to something interesting by citing the change in the parts of the meat that is normally liquid at room temperture. Are you letting the meat fully defrost before cooking and allowing a sufficient (read: nice long) resting time for those juices to reabsorbed by the meat at the cellular level? Few of us can resist digging into that nicely cooked roast beef that we just spent three hours preparing.

              1. re: dk

                Hmmmmm. I think I have allowed the meat to fully defrost which is where I notice the substantial leaking. I also let the meat rest but I suppose it isn't for very long after cooking. Could be part of the problem.

                Sadly I have also noticed substantial juice drippings from roasting a 'fresh' chicken. I just wonder if freezing it and then cooking doesn't dry it out even worse but I will have to revisit this experiment later.

      2. Actually, freezing and defrosting some tough cuts can help to tenderize them. The moisture in the cells expands when freezing and can help to break some of the tough fibres down. You would not want to freeze prime cuts at all, buy and cook as needed. Depending on who you buy it from you might want to store it unwrapped on a rack for a few days in the fridge (or on a cold but not freezing screened porch, away from your pets reach)and dry age it a bit before cooking.