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Coronavirus meat shortage: Freezing, defrosting dos and don’ts

Ann Schmidt

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Meat processing plants in the U.S. are slowing production or stopping completely because workers are contracting the coronavirus, sparking fears of a meat shortage.

To avoid running out of meat -- or even just to avoid having to go to the grocery store too often -- you can freeze your pork, chicken or beef. But there are specific techniques to follow, according to a report from Eater.

“You can hold a lot of meat over really well by freezing, without losing very much in terms of quality or integrity or flavor, as long as it’s stored properly,” Aaron Rocchino, the co-owner of California-based The Local Butcher Shop, told Eater.

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To see what those techniques and practices are, here are the dos and don’ts of freezing and defrosting meat, according to Eater.

DO: Freeze meat in portions

Before putting meat in the freezer, you should make sure it’s already portioned out for how you’ll eat it in one or two sittings, the food website recommended. That way, defrosting and preparing your meat will be easier.

Eater also reported that cooked meat doesn’t last as long in the freezer, so it’s better to freeze raw meat in proper portions.

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DO: Wrap meat properly

If you buy your meat at a butcher, they have special butcher paper with a wax lining that already helps preserve meat in the freezer, George Turkette, the owner of Indiana-based Turchetti’s Salumeria, told Eater.

If your meat is coming from a grocery store, you should transfer it from the Styrofoam trays into zipper-locked bags specifically for the freezer and try to remove all the air from the bag, according to Eater. That way, there will be “as little surface area as possible for water crystals to form in the freezer,” the website reported.

DO: Date the meat

Eater recommended dating the meat you put in the freezer with the date you purchased it and the date you put it in the freezer.

Dating your meat is especially important if the expiration date was just a few days away because the freezer doesn’t “reset the rate of expiration,” the website said.

Once you defrost the meat, you’ll have the same number of days left to cook it before it goes bad.

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DON’T: Leave meat frozen for too long

Rocchino told Eater that the longest meat should be frozen is nine months in order to keep the taste -- though chicken can go closer to a year, and ground meat should only go as long as four months.

The USDA also has a chart on its website that indicates how many months different types of meat can be frozen “for quality.”

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DON’T: Defrost too quickly

Even though you can technically defrost in a cold water bath or in the microwave, the best way to defrost meat is in the fridge, Rocchino told Eater.

That’s because the texture of the meat is expanded by freezing, and if it’s defrosted too quickly, it can’t shrink back down slowly, Rocchino explained.

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