Preparing & Storing Meat

Kafta Shawarma Chicken Pita Wrap Roll Sandwich

Cook, Package, and Freeze Meat Ahead for Quick Meal Preparation

Your days are full, but you can take part of the chore out of making dinner by not only planning meals but also cooking meat in advance to freeze and use later. It is possible to shorten dinner preparations considerably if you shop for meat once a month, and take a day to cook it ahead and store.

A vacuum packager makes storage easy, but cling wrap and zippered freezer bags together work well, too. The secret to storing meat is to eliminate as much air as possible from surrounding the food. This helps avoid freezer burn and preserve the flavor of the meat. Make sure to use the thicker freezer zipper bags, not the everyday bags. Season meat as you use it in your favorite family recipes, typically with salt and pepper. Other seasonings can be added when you make your dish. And if the weather is right for a BBQ, cook some extra meat to freeze.

Cooked ground beef is one of those foods that you can easily freeze for later use. Depending on the size of your family, you can store the meat in one or two pound batches, and take it out to use in tacos, casseroles, chili, pizza or any family favorites that call for ground beef.

Grilled steak is good to cook ahead and store in the freezer, too. Grill it to your family’s liking and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before putting in a zippered freezer bag. Thaw what you need and slice for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, stew, Asian dishes, or any of your other favorite beef dishes. If you know you'll use some meat cut into strips or chunks, you may want to do this before freezing.

Chicken is another versatile meat that is great to cook ahead for quick meals. Roast or crockpot a whole chicken or several chicken breasts, and let cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until you can handle it. Remove all the meat from the bones and store it in double zippered freezer bags to use in your favorite soup, stir fry, wrap, quesadilla or chicken salad recipes. If you buy the value sized package of chicken breasts, they're easy to freeze individually or cubed. Cool completely and then wrap full breasts in plastic wrap and put cut up chunks in zipper bags, then each should be put in to larger freezer bags. Remember to remove as much air as possible.

For larger quantities, steak and chicken pieces do well wrapped tightly in plastic wrap bundles, and then put into a gallon-size freezer bag. You can remove just the number of servings you need and save the rest for later. Force as much air as you can from the bag before zipping it closed. Be sure to date everything, and do not store any cooked meat longer than three or four months, at the most.

Plan a weekly or monthly dinner menu that utilizes your frozen, precooked meat, and you will truly enjoy the time it saves. Thaw packages of meat for 24 hours, always in the refrigerator, and if it is still a bit icy to start, it will work fine.

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