About To Cook Freezer Burn Beef? Think Again. Here’s How Long Meat Really Lasts in the Freezer

So you bought too much meat during your last grocery run and decided to stash some of it in the freezer until a later date. But then you forget all about it—until months later, when you find those chicken breasts, turkey burgers or skirt steaks hidden in the back of your freezer. 

You think to yourself: “How long does meat last in the freezer—and can I still eat what I’ve been storing in mine for, like, ever?” Well, the good news is that you can pretty much keep frozen meat around indefinitely and it’ll still be safe, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Phew! 

Buuuut…we do have a bit of bad news to share. Just because frozen meat won’t go bad, per say, doesn’t mean it’ll always taste good once you decide to thaw it out and grill, sear or pan-fry it. As the USDA notes, the quality of frozen foods decreases over time. Womp, womp. 

Related: Head Over to the Freezer Aisle! Here Are the 25 Best Frozen Foods at Costco

Never fear: We’re here to help you determine the ideal amount of time to store every type of meat (and fish!) in the freezer, based on guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other food safety experts. 

Plus, we’ve also got you covered with tips on how to store meat to preserve as much freshness as possible. No gray, rubbery chicken breasts or bland, hard-to-chew steaks on our watch!

How Long Does Meat Last in the Freezer, Really? 


Prepping for Thanksgiving in advance? Raw whole chickens and turkeys can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. Raw pieces of chicken or turkey (like breasts, thighs or wings) can last in the freezer for up to nine months, meanwhile. 

Related: How Long Does Cooked Rotisserie Chicken Last in the Fridge? 

Beef, veal and lamb 

Want to save those New York strips or veal chops for a TBD special occasion? You can keep raw steaks, chops, and roasts in the freezer for anywhere from four to 12 months.


Raw pork is similar to beef, veal, and lamb—varieties like chops and roasts can be stored for four to 12 months in the freezer. Processed pork products have slightly different guidelines, though. Things made from pork—like hot dogs, sausage, deli ham and bacon—should be kept for only one to two months in the freezer. 

Related: Best Baked Pork Chop Recipes

Venison (deer meat)

Ever wondered, “How long does deer meat last in the freezer?” Well, we’ve got the answer. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, properly wrapped raw venison (aka deer) can be stored in the freezer for nine to 12 months. 

Ground meat

Whether you’re stockpiling ground meat to make hamburgers at an upcoming BBQ or to fill shells on Taco Tuesday, know this: Ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, veal, or any combo of these ingredients will stay fresh in the freezer for three to four months. 


The freezer storage guidelines for fish depend on the type of fish. Fatty varieties, like salmon, tuna and mackerel, can be kept for two to three months in the freezer. Lean white fish, like cod, flounder, halibut and sole, will last you longer—six to eight months. Other lean fish, like pollock, ocean perch and sea trout can be stored for four to eight months. 

Related: The Best Air Fryer Fish Recipes


The freezer shelf life of shellfish also varies. Fresh crab or lobster meat can be stashed in the freezer for two to four months. Shucked clams, mussels, oysters and scallops can be kept for three to four months. Shrimp, crayfish and squid will keep their quality longer and can be stored for six to 18 months in the freezer. 

Oh, and we know you weren’t actually thinking of doing this, but it’s worth mentioning just as an FYI: The FDA doesn’t recommend freezing live shellfish, like lobsters, crabs or clams. Sorry! 

Leftover and cooked meat

If you’re an avid meal prepper who likes to batch cook, you’re in luck: You can store soups and stews containing meat for two to three months in the freezer. Cooked poultry and other kinds of cooked meat will stay good for two to six months, while chicken patties or nuggets can be stored for one to three months. 

Related: 10 Make-Ahead Soups That Freeze Well

The Right Way To Store Frozen Meat

Set your freezer to the ideal temperature

Brrrr! Always store meat at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in the freezer to ensure safety. According to the USDA, a temp of 0°F kills bacteria, yeast and mold in food.

Wrap your meat wisely

While you can throw meat into your freezer in its original packaging, it’s not the best idea if you’re thinking about keeping it in the freezer for a prolonged period. 

Instead, the USDA suggests wrapping meat in more substantial packaging, like foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, to preserve freshness. You can freeze unopened, vacuum-sealed meat as is. 

Be quick about freezing

Hurry! Thawed meat will taste yummiest if you freeze it at peak quality. So wrap it and store it in your freezer ASAP. Fun fact: A two-inch piece of meat should be completely frozen in about two hours. 

And according to the USDA, you should totally use a freezer’s “quick-freeze” shelf if it has one. That’s because rapidly freezing food helps prevent ice crystals from forming. These ice crystals can cause meat to lose juiciness during the thawing process. No thanks! 

Spread your meat out

The USDA advises against stacking frozen packages so your meat can fully freeze. So spread your wrapped pieces of meat out in one layer. You can stack them after they’re completely frozen if you need to save space.

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