When it comes to meal planning and reducing food waste, understanding how long you can safely keep cooked meat in the fridge and freezer is essential. Not only does it help you enjoy delicious leftovers, but it also prevents the risk of foodborne illnesses.
According to Healthline, cooked meat, including fish, chicken, and other proteins, should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Leaving it out at room temperature for longer increases the risk of bacterial growth.
For cooked poultry, such as chicken or turkey, it’s best to consume it within 3-4 days when stored at or below 4°C. Fish, on the other hand, should ideally be eaten within 1-2 days. Other cooked meats like beef, pork, or lamb can typically last 3-4 days in the fridge.
To maximise freshness and safety, consider placing cooked meats in airtight containers or wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This helps prevent moisture loss and the absorption of odors from other foods in your fridge.
If you can’t finish your cooked meat within the recommended timeframes, freezing is a fantastic option and properly stored cooked meat can stay safe in the freezer for extended periods. However, to maintain quality and flavour, it’s crucial to follow some guidelines.
Cooked meat should be stored in the freezer at -18°C or lower. When stored in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag, cooked chicken and turkey can last for 2-6 months. Fish, being more delicate, should ideally be consumed within 2-3 months. Beef, pork, and lamb have longer freezer lifespans, with optimal quality retention up to 6-12 months. Always label your frozen items with the date to help you keep track of when they were stored.
When it’s time to use your frozen cooked meat, remember to thaw it safely. The best practice is to transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw slowly. This method prevents rapid bacterial growth. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the microwave or a cold-water bath, ensuring you cook the meat immediately after thawing.
Knowing how long to safely keep cooked meat in the fridge and freezer is crucial for both taste and health. By following these guidelines from Healthline you can enjoy your favourite cooked meats without worry, reduce food waste, and savour every bite.
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