Packaging Meat to be Frozen

This entry applies to all cuts of meat, but I’m focusing on chicken as an example.

I love buying chicken on sale and/or in bulk. It’s so cheap and lasts forever in the freezer! That is, assuming you package it properly. Yes, this is a wrong way to freeze food. For the love of Mike, DO NOT put the package you bought from the grocery store straight into the freezer. It’ll burn.

You may be thinking, “But how can it burn in the freezer?”. Well, dear reader, ever heard of sublimation? Have you ever wondered how that crust of ice lined your freezer? Most likely you chucked your supermarket packaged meats in the freezer with abandon. Don’t do this. You’re pretty much freeze drying your chicken badly. While this alone won’t render the chicken inedible, it doesn’t make it pleasant to eat either. It’s a waste of money.

The water from your chicken sublimates and forms that icy lining, which dries out the chicken. You know how matter has three states: ice, liquid, solid? Normally things have to turn to liquid before they either freeze or melt (gas to liquid to solid, or vice versa). Well, sublimation is special phenomenon when it goes straight from solid to gas without that liquid state. In this case, the water in your chicken turns into a gas where it travels out of the chicken and lingers in your freezer, and then back to a solid that lines your freezer with ice. Don’t believe me? Click here or look it up yourself! Or don’t bother re-packaging your chicken. It’s not worth fighting about. (FYI: the icy lining can also be attributed to someone leaving the freezer open).

What you should be doing (at least, what I do) is taking that package apart and then putting single serve portions into freezer bags. Freezer bags are NOT the same as sandwich bags. Freezer bags are made of thicker plastic than sandwich bags and the zip closure withstands sublimation.

And when I say single serve, I mean enough for everyone you feed per meal. For example, since I just feed me and one other, I like to buy the quart sized Ziploc freezer bags and put 3 or 4 thighs or 1 or 2 chicken breasts per bag (pictured below). You may feed 5 people, so buy bigger bags (they go up to 2 gallons) so you can freeze 6 or 7 chicken breasts per bag. Use common sense and do what works for you and your family.

Qt Freezer Bags

Since I believe that sublimation is a thing as well as I don’t like to spread germs around if I can help it, I like to put my chicken straight from the package whence it came into a freezer bag. I don’t see the point of rinsing it at this point of the cooking process. It’s not going to stay clean and just adds more water into the nooks and crannies to contribute to freezer burn. I also think it’s a good idea to make use of the white label. Just the date, quantity, and cut of meat that’s in the bag. It saves on future confusion/frustration.

The next step is the most important, close the zip half way and squish as much air out of the bag as possible. No air in the bag means there’s no space for the frozen water to turn to gas. Someone people even buy equipment solely for the purpose of vacuum sealing their food. I’m considering it. Then seal it before the air goes back into the bag. Voila, it can now go into the freezer and be as fresh as when you first bought it.

I don’t like to defrost using warm water or the microwave. I’ve found that it cooks the outside while leaving the center frozen. Instead, I like to give it plenty of time to defrost in the refridgerator. Keep in mind that a larger bag of meat will take much longer to defrost than smaller bags, so this may not be an option for your family. I always like to keep a bag defrosting or defrosted in the freezer, since we eat a lot of chicken. Do what makes sense for your family!