Hosting a backyard bash full of flavorful grilling recipes or throwing together a hearty family dinner can be a cinch if you’ve got protein options in your freezer. Plus, buying meat in bulk and freezing some for later = major savings. But if that ribeye has been in your freezer for a while, you might be wondering: How long does frozen meat last?
According to the USDA, frozen foods are safe to eat indefinitely. But just because something is ok to consume doesn’t mean it will still taste delicious after years in a deep freeze. Here’s how it works: Zero-degree temps (and below) inactivate any bacteria, yeasts or molds and prevent harmful microorganisms from growing. Frozen foods, however, will decrease in quality (think: taste, texture, color, etc.) over time, especially if they are loosely wrapped or frozen slowly. So while you won’t get sick from your months-old frozen steak, it might not make for the juiciest cut.
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We put together guidelines based on recommendations from the FDA for how long to store all types of meat in the freezer. And when it comes time to thaw that prized piece, be sure to defrost meat safely for the healthiest — and tastiest — result.
*The graphic above illustrates our Chief Food Director’s professional opinion on frozen meat quality over time, which may suggest shorter freezing time than the FDA’s recommended time outlined below.
How do I store meat in the freezer?
First, make sure that you’re freezing meat — and all other foods — at a temperature of 0° Fahrenheit or lower. This is the temp that keeps food safe. It’s fine to freeze meat in its original packaging, but if you’re planning to keep it in your freezer for longer than two months the FDA recommends that you switch to heavy-duty packaging like foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper. You can seal protein inside an airtight plastic bag, too. Lock in freshness using one of our top-tested, best vacuum sealers.
How long does frozen meat last?
Whole chickens and turkeys can last up to a year in the freezer. Turkey or chicken breasts, thighs, or wings should be consumed within nine months, while giblets should be kept no longer than three to four months.
Beef, Veal, & Lamb
Raw steaks can be kept in the freezer for six to 12 months. Chops last four to six months while roasts can be frozen for up to a year.
Uncooked pork has similar freezer guidelines to beef: Chops last four to six months in the freezer, while roasts can be frozen for up to a year. Processed pork, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, and lunch meats, should not be kept in the freezer for longer than one to two months.
Fish & Seafood
Lean fish can last six to eight months in the freezer while fatty fish only lasts two to three months.
Not sure if your fish is lean or fatty? Common lean fish include bass, cod, tuna and tilapia, while fatty fish include mackerel, salmon and sardines.
Other fresh seafood such as shrimp, scallops, crawfish, and squid should last three to six months in the freezer.
Ground beef, turkey, lamb, or veal will preserve their quality in the freezer for three to four months. (The same goes for hamburger meat!)
Cooked & Leftover Meat
Looking to save that leftover turkey? Cooked meat doesn’t maintain its quality in the freezer for as long as raw meat does: Cooked poultry and fish can be kept in the freezer for four to six months, while beef, veal, lamb and pork shouldn’t be kept for longer than two to three months.
Hannah Jeon is an Associate Commerce Editor at Prevention, where she covers expert-driven commerce content for all things health, beauty, and wellness. Previously the Editorial Assistant at Good Housekeeping, she earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing and psychology from Johns Hopkins University. When she’s not on the hunt for all the best products online, you can often find her trying out new food spots in New York City or clicking away behind a camera.
Samantha (she/her) is an Assistant Editor in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, where she writes about tasty recipes, must-try food products and top-tested secrets for home cooking success. She has taste-tasted hundreds of products and recipes since joining GH in 2020 (tough job!). A graduate of Fordham University, she considers the kitchen to be her happiest place.