Follow these freezer storage guidelines to make sure you use food when it's at its best.

We tend to think that freezing food-whether leftovers, a dish we made specifically to freeze, or produce we have too much of and want to save-means it will last indefinitely. That's not the case. Different types of food have different lifespans in the freezer. The first thing to know is that the temperature of your freezer plays a big role in how long food lasts. For the foods outlined here to last as long as specified, your freezer must have a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) or below.

Here, a handy guide to how long each type of food can be kept in the freezer before being used safely.

Meat and Poultry

It's useful to have chicken and meat on hand in the freezer and many people assume that as long as it is frozen, it will last. Unfortunately, frozen meat does not have an indefinite lifespan. Raw chicken and turkey can be frozen longest; whole birds will last up to a year while chicken or turkey parts (thighs, breast, legs, wings) can be frozen for nine months. The maximum time that beef, veal, lamb, and pork can be frozen varies by cut; steaks should keep for six months to a year, roast cuts for four months to a year, and chops only up to four to six months. Chicken and turkey giblets, in addition to variety meats like liver, can stay frozen for three to four months.

If you buy meat to freeze know that it can stay in its original packaging in the freezer, but the FDA recommends wrapping packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper. If you intend to freeze the meat or poultry for longer than two months, the FDA recommends placing the entire package in a plastic bag. That's because grocery store wrapping is air permeable and that will impact the quality of the meat or poultry if frozen for longer.

Fish and Shellfish

Fish and shellfish are perishable, and fresh seafood that you freeze yourself will not hold up in the freezer as long as already frozen seafood purchased at the grocery store. The best way to freeze fish at home to maintain quality is to line a cookie sheet that will fit flat in your freezer, with plastic wrap. If working with fillets, arrange individual pieces in a single layer, making sure there's space between them. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and let freeze for two hours or until firm. Then transfer to air-free, sealable freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as possible. Fresh lean fish will last up to three months stored like this in the freezer.

Shellfish and mollusks can also be frozen using this technique. Shrimp may last for up to six months and squid, scallops, and mussels for up to three months, but 30 days is a better guideline for maintaining quality.

Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables such as green beans, asparagus, broccoli florets, and carrot sticks should be blanched before freezing and will last eight months to a year tightly packed in a freezer-safe plastic bag with the air squeezed out.

Stone fruits and melons are best sliced before storing and will last for up to six months in the freezer. Berries should have stems removed but last best in the freezer if kept whole rather than halved or sliced. They also will last up to six months in the freezer. Bananas, which can be frozen to create delicious treats, should be peeled before freezing and are good for up to three months


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