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Is It a Sin to Freeze Beef?

I frequently hear references to the idea that meat (especially beef) should NEVER be frozen. I hear this both from high-end TV chefs and on TV commercials for national chain restaurants. I grew up eating prime beef hindquarters that my family would purchase and freeze. I own a freezer now and often freeze meat when I find something that is special or just a great bargain.

What negative impact, if any, is freezing supposed to have on meat?

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  1. The only negative impact for me is if the beef is not wrapped carefully and it gets freezer burnt. My parents bought all their beef on sale, stocked up, froze it and cooked it often, no damage was done. And I wish I could have one of those great roast beef dinners with yorkshire pudding that my Mom would make with that roast from the freezer.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ruthie789

      I bet you also remember when beef had both fat and taste.

      1. re: sandylc

        Yes, in fact I think some marbling in meat is good. My mom used the fat for the Yorshire pudding. It is much maligned these days. We had roast beef almost every Sunday for years and years. I eat beef once a week I think this is reasonable.

      2. re: Ruthie789

        vacuumed sealed there is little chance of freezer burn and it would be hard to tell the difference between fresh and frozen. I'm not sure I could tell the difference.

        1. re: scubadoo97

          Agreed. The biggest factor is exactly how the beef is frozen. Vacuum packed and frozen very quickly to very low temperature, there is minimal effect on the meat. Loosely wrapped and frozen slowly (or frozen only marginally) and you run several risks - freezer burn, off smells and flavors, the formation of large ice crystals that perforate meat cells and lead to losing more juice resulting in a poor texture.

          Meat that has been frozen badly is easy to tell apart from meat that has never been frozen. Meat that has been frozen well can be very difficult to tell from never-frozen meat.

      3. I don't freeze beef, chicken or lamb unless it is for stock. I find the texture is better with fresh, it isn't watery and there is no risk of freezer burn which means I never have to throw out meat I paid good money for.

        3 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          If you pack it with tender loving care there will not be freezer burn.

          1. re: Ruthie789

            Yes, but if you don't freeze it at all you can be sure there will be no freezer burn.

            1. re: escondido123

              In an ideal cooking situation fresh is always better and if that works for you so be it. For others a little wiggle room is fine as well, as others have said as well, freezing is fine as long as the meat is well wrapped. I buy produce on sale, and yes do bring home to freeze.

        2. In my uneducated opinion, freezing meat is a 1-point deduct on a 10 scale. But sometimes that is the best that circumstances allow. In contrast, some fish lose 3 points from freezing, cooked lobster meat loses 5.

          JMUO.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            All fish bought commercailly in the Unites States has been frozen.

            1. re: jpc8015

              No, not all fish. But some is... and frozen-at-sea may be better than unfrozen bought days after being caught. An interesting article: http://www.chefnews.com/is-frozen-fis...

              1. re: drongo

                Yep. A lot is, but, certainly not "[a]ll fish bought commercially . . . has been frozen." Recently,* I have purchased monkfish tails, fluke, and whole blackfish that were never frozen. When there is a commercial fleet less than a mile from your house, there is a lot of "never frozen" fish available.

                Moreover, there are also quite a few Asian markets around the Nation - H-Mart, for example - where you can have them take the still swimming fish from the tank. Clearly, they have never been frozen. At bottom, sweeping generalizations, especially when demonstrably wrong, are particularly not advisable.

                *By "recently" I mean the last week or so.

              2. re: jpc8015

                Most, but not all - Copper River salmon for example, and in Florida I get fresh, fresh of many types. For the reason you cite I plan many trips with the deliberate purpose of eating fresh, fresh seafood, as I recently did and often do in the Caribbean. There is no other way to score 100%, and it is just dreamy deliciousness when it comes together. Not everything can be delivered to your door, or your town or city. Part of my personal creed, with inspiration and reinforecement from CH, is ....go get it, wherever it is.

                1. re: jpc8015

                  That's true where I live, and I would say all fish I've ever paid for was at least three points below any fish I've eaten on a fishing trip.

                  1. re: jpc8015

                    That's just not so. Go to the market in Seattle and they'll be happy to throw a fresh caught salmon at you. There are fresh unfrozen fish available everywhere in the US and Canada.

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        Even the ones swimming around in the tank? They made an amazing recovery from being frozen :o

                    1. There are certain cuts I don't mind freezing, like skirt, top round, etc.

                      But for things like ribeye, strip or a filet, I try to eat them as soon as I get them from the butcher, unless I plan on dry-aging them.

                      8 Replies
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Same here, I have a stock of roasts in the freezer, but steaks are bought the day they are eaten, or the day before. In fact, I spent the last week eating Italian beef sandwiches that I made from a roast that I had kept in the freezer. They were so enjoyable that I'm seriously thinking about taking another roast out to do a second batch.

                          I find that as long as I wrap things carefully, and store them in my upright freezer (seems to keep a more stable temp than the freezer on the refrigerator), then I don't have any problems with freezer burn. And of course, date the packages in large print - first in, first out.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I spent 20 minutes today explaining to a customer of mine why he shouldn't "dry age" his own meat. Please don't do that. You aren't improving the cut and you are risking food born illness.

                            1. re: Brandon Nelson

                              Been doing it for years, and will be continuing to do so for years from here on out.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Same here. If done right, there is no potential harm.

                                1. re: The Professor

                                  Same here. If done right, there is no potential harm.
                                  ______________

                                  This is true for food preparation (e.g. cooking, baking, brining, BBQing, etc.) in general.

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    You are correct. "Done right" are the key words.

                                    "Done right" requires an intact primal with a full fat covering (there is a reason you don't see dry aged filet mignon), and an constant and unchanging temperature and humidity. Most professionals (myself included) don't have the proper facilities in our commercial setups to do this. It is very much like a cigar humidor.

                                    If "dry aging" was simply allowing a cut, fabricated piece of meat to get old and brown I would lose a lot less product than I do.

                                    Most home "aged" beef is simply exposing the cut surface of the meat to the inconsistent environment of of a household fridge. A fridge that very likely has many unexpected opportunities for cross contamination. Most DIY "dry aging" is akin to trying to make prosciutto out of a pork chop; Great motivation, improper execution.

                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                    AND ME

                                    We eat our own beef and I have no problem with home dry ageing or freezing any properly wrapped cut in a cold enough freezer. -10* to -17*f

                                2. I find that there is little to no impact from freezing any cut of beef as long as it is done properly. If you are able to vacuum seal your beef before it goes in the freezer you will be fine. The beef can stay frozen for six months or more without any issues.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                    Correct, absolutely. If vacuum packed, frozen quickly and subsequently thawed slowly for use, there is no impact at all of flavor or texture.

                                  2. We buy most of our meat (lamb, mutton, pork and beef), online from the farm, two or three times a year. Can't say I notice any difference between meat we freeze and meat we eat fresh (assuming like for like in breed of animal, aging period, etc).

                                    1. Harold McGee: "Freezing is an extreme treatment that inevitably damages the tissue." He goes on to say that the resulting fluid loss means drier and tougher meat. Fast freezing and good wrapping can minimize, but not eliminate, the damage.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        He is has given his expert opinions there are others on this matter.

                                        1. re: Ruthie789

                                          I would love to see them here. Thanks.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            Well for one the beefboard has recommendations on freezing. I do not refute that fresh is better. Try to understand that some of us budget for our purchases, for some transportation for daily purchases is limited, so freezing foods of all sorts is a viable option. It is an acceptable form of preservation.
                                            http://www.beefboard.org/consumer/che...

                                      2. It does impact the meat, but not enough to stop me from doing it. I eat waaaaay better by buying on sale and quick sale items that would never workout without my chest freezer. To me frozen ribeye is better than no ribeye.

                                        I rarely eat non-frozen meat.

                                        1. Honestly, I don't notice a difference between properly frozen beef and fresh beef. I've always bought a lot on sale, and I stock up. I ask the butcher to double wrap it for me in paper. I thaw in the fridge, and it looks good as fresh when thawed. I also freeze sausage and other meats. The only thing that I don't like to freeze is fish. I think fresh is best in that case.

                                          1. Beef is a remarkably forgiving meat in terms of treatment. I generally choose beef meals on airlines.

                                            1. The only time I don't use frozen beef is if I'm cooking for guests, making expensive steaks, or if I happen to be making beef on the day I went shopping. I'm fine with it.

                                              1. It's only a sin if you start with a sacred cow.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. Cowichan Valley Meat Market= meat lovers nirvana. Check out the carcasses in the back. You can see the butchers working on them through huge glass windows.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                                    it's more of a sin to throw it out than to freeze..

                                                  2. I buy beef, chicken and lamb at the wharehouse club in bulk and always freeze some. I make sure I wrap it properly and it does not seem t have a negative effect.

                                                    1. Forgotten Commandment #11 and Moses said to the people "Thou shalt not freeze beef lest you toughen and spoil it."

                                                      Not a sin. Maybe the equivalent of going 27 mph in a 25 mph zone. Ideally you would not want to, but really, what's the harm? I don't think any cop will give you a ticket and you definitely won't need to see the priest.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                        I got a ticket in Addison, TX, for driving 31 in a 25 construction zone, outside of construction hours, end of month during quota time. My plea of how I can safely navigate in my friendly hockey league at 32 MPH on ice skates didn't connect with Bubba. $242.

                                                      2. I think so long as you thoroughly seal your beef with a serious vacuum sealer using good bags to ensure that your meat stays sealed, there is absolutely nothing wrong with freezing beef, or any meat for that matter.

                                                        We buy a cow from a local farmer with a couple of friends, vacuum seal the meat and keep it in our chest freezer - it's the absolute best! This is the vacuum sealer that I use (little pricey, but it's well worth the money you're going to spend repairing and replacing a foodsaver - bags for it are cheap too):

                                                        http://www.westonsupply.com/Weston-Va...

                                                        1. Michael Symon makes a vacuum sealer too, so I guess he's cool with vacuum sealing & freezing meat... and he knows all about that stuff, right? I wish I saw this one before I bought my other: https://michaelsymon.westonproducts.c...

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: sausage_maker

                                                            He might make a vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking. (And you believe that celebrities always use the products they sell?)

                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                              He's an enthusiastic practitioner of sous vide, so I suspect that's why he's hawking vacuum sealers. I'm fairly certain that he personally uses a chamber vacuum rather than the Foodsaver-style home model he sells. Which is not to say that his home model is a bad product - I haven't tried it, but it looks pretty standard.

                                                              That said, many restaurant cooks who use sous vide also freeze meats without a second thought, since one of the upsides of sous vide is that meat can be fully cooked, frozen well, stored, and ready at any time for a quick reheat with bare minimum loss of quality.

                                                          2. I vacuum seal and freeze several hundred pounds of high end aged steak & expensive seafood every year. When freezing many at a time, do not package them all together because it takes longer for the items to freeze which is not a good thing....... scatter them about the freezer and then organize them a few days later after they are fully frozen. Also when thawing, pull them a couple days a head of time and slowly thaw on the back of the lower shelf in the frig.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: Tom34

                                                              I buy in bulk at Costco (and they have some excellent cuts of meat). Bring it home and immediately vacuum seal the excess. I have no problem. I can pull it out of the freezer several months later and it is still as pink as the day I bought it. My food saver has paid for itself many times over!

                                                              1. re: boyzoma

                                                                Yeah, I love my VacuPack. Check out the Web Restaurant Store. I bought bulk bags from them and I think the pint bags (Fits one nice strip steak) came to about .14 cents & the quart bags (Fits 2 nice strip steaks) came to about .17 cents. These prices included shipping. I think those prices are about 1/2 the going price at local stores.

                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                  I wonder if the VacuPack bags would work with the FoodSaver. Could you send me the link to the Web Restaurant Store? If so, that would be great! I even used my sealer to preserve my daughter's wedding dress! Worked great!

                                                                  Edit: I found the store! I'll check it out.

                                                                  1. re: boyzoma

                                                                    Sorry for the delay, just got back from vacation. As far as I know, the vacustrip bags, made by Vacmaster, work in all external vacuum sealers. There is a site, " The sweat Attack", that sells them as well. Their site has a link to the vacmaster site that has a video discussing their bags. Hope this helps. Tom.

                                                                2. re: boyzoma

                                                                  Do the same thing. The food saver was the first thing I bought when I joined Costco

                                                                1. re: ike04

                                                                  Good link and site,thanks

                                                                  I wonder how many keep a thermometer to know the temperature of the freezer?Mine are all small chest at -17*f to -23*f and FULL.Everything is frozen with space before the chest pack.

                                                                2. I wouldn't freeze a quality steak but if its for stews or minced beef then I don't think it makes much difference to the taste or texture.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: echoclerk

                                                                    I have frozen hundreds of pounds of wet and dry aged choice & prime steaks and never had a problem. Proper wrapping or vacuum sealing followed by rapid freezing & very slow thawing in the frig are key. As a general rule I try to limit freeze time to 6 months but did find a dry aged boneless strip in the frig that was approx 18 months old that was as good as the day it went in the freezer. I suspect that the lower moisture content of the dry aged product made the difference.

                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                      A faster thaw under cold running water also works well if the meat is vacuum packed.

                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        I have done that with things like shrimp but never with steak. Is there any extra blood loss with the quick thaw method that might lead to a less juicy steak?

                                                                        1. re: Tom34

                                                                          I haven't noticed much difference. My standard method now with just about all smaller items which are vacuumed bagged is to toss in cold water. Most often the small side of my kitchen sink and let it thaw in water there. No need for running water if it's filled a good way.

                                                                          Walk away and do other prep work and in less than 30 min it's thawed. I get a scant amount of blood when thawing a steak. Nothing major.

                                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                                            As long as you have a good water tight seal on the bag, I've never noticed any drop in quality vs thawing in the fridge. On the one or two occasions where there turned out to be a hole in the bag and the steak got waterlogged, then there was indeed a poor result.

                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                              SCUBADOO97 & COWBOYARDEE,

                                                                              That's interesting. I will have to try that. It would come in especially handy when the number of guests increase at the last minute.

                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                Been there.

                                                                                Now with vacuum sealing I've never encountered the problem

                                                                      2. Long ago; before mankind understood the concept of "vacuum" much less had invented a vacuum sealing machine, my dad sent a beef to the slaughter house once or twice a year. Basically when we were out of beef he selected a candidate.

                                                                        The meat was wrapped tightly in foil and then over wrapped with butcher paper. The last package was always as good as the first.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: kengk

                                                                          I agree. Before I bought a vacuum sealer, I double wrapped everything and it worked pretty well. I think the vacuum sealer works better though especially for longer term storage and it is much easier. The big issue was the cost of the bags but they have come down dramatically.

                                                                        2. I recently started using Weston bags, bought from Amazon. They are a fraction of the cost of Food Saver brand and work just as well for me.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: kengk

                                                                            Checkout the vacustrip bags at "webrestaurantstore". I bought 300 Quart & 300 Pint and the total was $77.88 plus $11.00 shipping. When I distributed the shipping evenly, it came out to .17 cents for the Quart bags & just under .13 for the pint bags. Shipping to a business is even less.

                                                                            I have an old style Vacupacker which is pretty much the same thing as the old Italian made FoodSaver and the vacustrip bags work great.

                                                                            When considering the high cost of extra heavy weight foil & high quality professional butcher paper & freezer proof tape I don't think the above prices for the vacustrip bags are too bad.