Freezer storage has been around since the 1940’s, giving consumers the convenient ability to extend the shelf life of their foods and limit waste.
However, there is a right and wrong way to freeze products, with the methods changing based on if you are storing fruits, vegetables, bread products and meats. This begs to question if you can safely cook with it, then can you freeze meat in aluminum foil?
Aluminum foil is a fantastic product designed for food prep and storage. Nonetheless, certain food products like meat do not fare well when in direct contact with this material. This is why food experts advise that you use this product, just as a secondary form of food preservation.
Poultry, fish and beef products can all be safely stored in freezer safe ziplock bags, vacuum seal bags or the original packaging. However, if you want to maximize your freezer shelf life, it is important to apply a tight layer of heavy duty aluminum foil overtop of the plastic seal. This will block out light and further limit the impacts of oxygen and moisture from spoiling the food.
The Culprits Behind Food Spoilage
There are four main things you want to avoid when storing food — moisture, oxygen, light, and bacteria.
These can be easily avoided by preserving food prior to its best by date and by utilizing a handful of storage tools that limit the instance of these factors.
Heavy duty aluminum foil is a spectacular choice for preserving food. Clearly, it blocks out light, but it also serves as a barrier against moisture. This is why products wrapped tightly in this material are less likely to incur freezer burn.
However, while it is good at limiting oxygen, it will not prevent its presence completely.
That is why food experts recommend vacuum sealing products and then applying a secondary layer of aluminum foil to the product to double down on protection.
If you don’t have this type of machinery available, you can also use a freezer bag or the original packaging.
Meat Storage Using Aluminum Foil [Considerations Before You Freeze]
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “food-grade materials, such as aluminum foil, heavy freezer-weight plastic bags, heavy plastic wrap and parchment or freezer paper are excellent choices.” However, they also note that heavy-duty foil is best used as an overwrap. Why is this?
Reason #1:Aluminum Foil Is Easily Punctured
It takes little effort to perforate aluminum foil. This can allow moisture, oxygen and light to get in, leading to expedited spoilage.
In contrast, thick plastic takes a lot more force to cause the same effect, making it a more ideal initial layer.
Reason #2:Acidic Foods React With Aluminum
Unlike plastic, aluminum foil is highly susceptible to acidic foods. When left in contact with these low pH-based items, the aluminum foil will begin to break down, causing some of the metal to leach into the food products.
This can be extremely detrimental to one’s health, especially in children who have a lower body mass.
This is also the case when hot food is placed on aluminum for extended periods of time.
For instance, if you were to wrap up a steak in aluminum soon after taking it off the grill, not only would the metal more readily adhere to the surface of the meat, but it has been shown the lead to aluminum contamination.
Researchers have found that “aluminum intake represents a health risk, affecting hazardously [the] nervous system, bones, and hemopoietic system.”
Thus, while convenient, cooking and storing food regularly in aluminum foil is not recommended.
However, this only applies to foods that can readily absorb the material. This includes products like bread, cooked quiche and certain fruits and vegetables.
In case you didn’t know, red meat, poultry and fish are all considered acidic foods. Therefore, do not freeze any type of meat in aluminum foil.
This is exceptionally true for folks who like to marinate their meats and then freeze them. Not only is there the concern of the meat becoming tainted, but leaking is also an issue.
Reason #3:Defrosting Is Much More Difficult
While you can place the meat in the fridge overnight to thaw, if your family’s mealtime plans are normally last minute, aluminum foil is not going to do you any favors.
Not only can you not defrost it in the microwave oven, but if you try to peel the aluminum foil directly off of meat, it will break apart leaving small pieces adhered to the food.
Additionally, the cold water method will also pose difficulty if it is not initially wrapped in plastic first. Therefore, in order to expedite meal times, only use this as an overwrap.
How To Properly Freeze Meat Using Aluminum Foil [Poultry, Beef & Fish]
As mentioned above, aluminum foil is best utilized as a second layer of preservation. No matter what type of meat you choose to store long term in the freezer, all of these methods will apply. This goes for both raw and cooked varieties of meat.
When using these methods, raw ground meats such as ground beef, turkey and chicken will last three to four months.
Raw beef, chicken and pork will last up to 12 months. Conversely, once cooked, meats should only be frozen up to six months.
Step #1:Package the Meat Using Aluminum Foil Before You Freeze
Method #1:Overwrap Store Packaging
As we all know, the plastic wrap that encases the raw meat that we buy at the grocery store is less than paper-thin.
While it does a decent job of keeping air out, it is still important to apply a tight layer of aluminum foil over top of the unopened package.
This will more effectively prevent air, moisture, and light from getting in. Nonetheless, this will still be the least effective storage method on our list.
Thus, no matter if you purchase poultry, fish or beef products, this is the most effective method of preservation.
Method #2:Overwrap Raw Or Cooked Meat In A Freezer Safe Plastic Bag
The next method is to take raw or cooked meat and place it in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. This will better limit the factors of spoilage.
Remove as much air as possible and then seal. Next, fold over any excess plastic and again, tightly wrap the meat in a secondary layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Method #3:Overwrap Vacuum Sealed Meat
This is the optimal method of meat storage. Take your freshly purchased or cooked meat and place it in the vacuum seal plastic.
Remove the air using a vacuum sealer machine. Then, apply a layer of foil over the plastic.
Method #4:Seal Glass Dishes Using Aluminum Foil
The final method of freezer storage is to place the meat in a Pyrex dish or other freezer-safe glass container.
Then, apply a tight layer of aluminum foil over the top. Then, place the plastic lid on top of the foil.
In this method, always leave at least ¾ of an inch of space between the food and the lid to allow for the expansion of the meat. This will ensure that the packaging remains sealed.
Method #5:Use Aluminum Foil To Cover Tin Foil Containers
Finally, aluminum tin containers are another useful method for freezer storage. Additionally, unlike aluminum foil, these pose less of a risk of puncturing or breakage.
This disposable cookware makes it easy to meal plan and have dinner ready to throw in the oven. This also removes the worry of defrosting!
However, the majority of foods that are frozen in this cookware are combination meals that are fully or partially cooked.
This includes dishes like lasagna, casseroles, and quiches. If the cooked meat is a part of one of these recipes, then it is safe to store it in aluminum containers. Cover it with a tight layer of aluminum foil.
Important Freezer Storage Tips
When packaging cooked meats using methods #2, #3, and #4, it is imperative that you allow the meat to effectively cool before packaging and freezing. This will allow the meat to properly and rapidly freeze.
Moreover, avoid seasoning the meat prior to storage. When combined with fat, salt can cause the meat to go rancid if not cooked and consumed promptly after.
Additionally, avoid freezing large slabs of meat. Even if they come in a vacuum seal bag, they have a higher likelihood of experiencing flavor and texture changes.
Furthermore, if you do choose to freeze these products, always apply the secondary layer of foil.
When freezing these larger quantities, also make a point to place them on an empty shelf.
This will allow for better airflow around the meat, which will expedite the freezing process.
Finally, always freeze your meat prior to the “Best By” date. Otherwise, you cannot guarantee that the meat will stay fresh and safe to eat.
Remember that freezing does not kill bacteria. Instead, it just causes it to go dormant. This limits the signs of obvious spoilage.
However, it does not remove the risk of foodborne illnesses that can occur upon consumption.
Step #2: Freeze The Meat
Before you freeze the meat in aluminum foil, label the products with the date of freezing.
Then, store food at a consistent zero degrees Fahrenheit until you are ready to cook or reheat the product.
Lastly, once thawed, always look for signs of spoilage before eating. This can include changes in texture, color, smell or flavor. When in doubt, throw it out!
Most chicken and beef products, like steak and beef tenderloin, are not recommended for direct storage in tin foil.
However, the USDA does not note any issue with storing hamburgers or ground beef in aluminum foil.
This is especially true when you choose the varieties that have a lower percentage of fat.
Thus, apply a layer of aluminum foil over the cooled cooked hamburger or the raw ground beef.
Then, place them in a freezer safe ziplock bag. Finally, no matter what storage method you choose, once you have allowed your food to thaw, make sure to cook and eat it within three to five days.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.