Previous month:
December 2021
Next month:
March 2022

February 2022

How long can you keep meat in the freezer? - Bachelor on the Cheap

By Mike  Thayer

Frozen SteakA lot of people are stocking up on freezer items these days, with a focus on meats.  Some folks are doing so to fight inflation, prices of all meats are way up and will continue to do nothing but climb.  Other folks are buying up meats as a result of world events and supply chain concerns, out of fear some items will become scarce or unavailable.

Having some ground beef and boneless/skinless chicken breasts stashed in the freezer is pretty standard for a lot of us.  But how long can you keep meat in the freezer before it goes bad? 

According to, frozen meat that's kept at a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower will actually be safe to eat indefinitely.  But there are tangibles, like how the meat is wrapped and even how your freezer is packed that can make a difference in the meat quality down the road.  So the question isn't really if the meat is safe to eat or not (given your freezer never quit at any point), the real question is, "Will the meat be good to eat?"

Freezer burn is the #1 culprit in making meat from the freezer not so good, as in tasty, to eat.  Freezer burn is when air circulating in the freezer to keep things cold hits the meat, drying out a spot and making it leathery.  A rip in the packaging and/or poor wrapping will result in freezer burn and you can't pan sear, roast or grill freezer burn out of a piece of meat.  You can cut the freezer burn out of that burger patty or steak, but who wants to do that and eat 3/4 of a burger?  Nonsense.  Freezer burn is totally preventable.

Below is a list of meats and the recommended maximum time it should stay in your freezer.   Going beyond the recommended time doesn't mean the meat will go bad, it just means the flavor and tenderness is in decline.  Included with the recommended freezer times below are some tips and other guidelines so you won't have to ask yourself whether that steak you pulled out of the freezer is good to eat or not...  Keep in mind that with most meats, the flavor factor hits its peak at the four month mark.  Sure, you can freeze it longer than that, but that four month mark is key, when the flavor profile starts the decline. 

Beef - Roasts, Steaks:  Up to six months

Chicken - Whole:  Up to one year

Chicken - Parts, skin on, bone in:  Up to nine months

Chicken - Boneless/skinless breasts or thighs:  Up to six months

Pork- Shoulder:  Up to one year

Pork - Steaks, Ribs, Chops:  Up to six months

Bacon:  Up to six months...  Um, I've NEVER had bacon stay in my freezer that long, it's TOO TASTY!

Sausages, raw - Brats, Breakfast Links/Patties/Chubs, Italian Sausage, Mexican Chorizo and the like:  Up to four months

Sausages, pre-cooked, smoked - Andouille, Kielbasa, Hot Links and the like:  Up to eight months

Hot Dogs:  Up to eight months

Ground Meats - all types:  Up to four months

Lamb - Rack, Shanks, Chops:  Up to six months

Fish - Fatty types like Tuna and Salmon:  Up to three months

Fish - Leaner types like Cod or Tilapia:  Up to six months

*Vacuum sealing meats will extend freezer life another three to six months, but that is a story for another day.

Freezing chicken
Don't just throw it in the freezer like this...

Tip #1:  Make sure your freezer is free of frost, clean and the temperature set at zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower.   And did you know an empty freezer is not a very efficient one?  The only thing that keeps an empty or nearly empty freezer at the proper temperature is the electricity needed to run it.  When stocked properly, a freezer does not need to run as often to maintain the proper temperature, the frozen food inside is helping it do that.  But an overstuffed freezer isn't so efficient either.  Without proper air circulation a freezer has to work harder to maintain temperature and overstuffing can lead to blocking vents and sensors.  Ideally, your freezer should be 75 - 80% full for optimum performance.

Tip #2:  You can leave that steak you just bought in the Styrofoam bottom and plastic wrapped top if you want to, but doing so is the leading cause of freezer burn.  Don't get lazy in thinking, "I'll be eating this next week, it'll be fine," and just toss it in.  That packaging is designed for a fresh presentation, marketing you to buy it.  It's not made for the freezer.  Thin plastic wrap is also easy to tear when it gets placed in the freezer and bumps up against other products.  Perhaps you didn't get around to having that steak the next week and you finally pull it out to grill three months later.  Guess what?  Freezer burn!  Always have freezer bags on hand when stocking the freezer.  Foil and freezer paper are fine too but if none of that is possible, repurpose the plastic grocery store bags and double wrap your meats.

Tip #3:  Always label and date the meat your are freezing, i.e., Pork Chop, 02/26/2022 and keep a copy of this blog post in your kitchen or by the freezer somewhere.  Properly labeling and dating your meats takes any guesswork out of the picture.  Some people will just throw something in a bag and toss it in the freezer, then four months later pull it out and the bag is all frosty/icey and they ask themselves, "What the "F" is this?"  Kind of makes meal prep a little harder, don't you think?

Tip #4:  Organize your freezer and rotate your meats.  Try to arrange your freezer by meat type and then date, with your oldest meats towards the front or top of your freezer.  A beef section by date, a chicken section by date, a sausage section by date and so on...  Don't just toss items in the freezer, that too, leads to freezer burn.  It may sound time consuming to organize and rotate, but it actually saves you a lot of time in the long run.  Look at all the bonuses:  Bonus #1 - an organized freezer that is 75 - 80% full is a happy, efficient, air circulating right freezer, running at proper temperature.  Bonus #2 - Items are much easier to find, no rummaging, no digging and pulling the older cuts of meat for a meal aides in the rotating process.  I've read countless Facebook posts where a guy asks if the twice frosted over steak he found at the bottom of his freezer dated two years ago under a bag of chicken wings is OK to eat.  Bonus #3 -   When making a list for the grocery store or butcher shop, take a quick peak in your organized and properly product rotated freezer, it makes shopping easier and you won't spend as much.

Now that you know how to keep frozen meats at their optimum flavor profile, go stock up!  You'll save money over future higher prices, you won't waste money by becoming a victim of freezer burn and you'll spend money more efficiently at the grocery store.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Bachelor on the Cheap: Essential must haves for stocking your pantry and fridge

Related:Grilling Tips & Essential Tools

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on a Stick

By Mike Thayer

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on the Stick prep
2 pounds ground chicken, rotisserie spice, one egg

I love Chicken Cordon Bleu, it's a classic French dish of chicken that is pounded out thin, which is then wrapped around ham and Swiss cheese.  The whole thing is then breaded and fried or baked until golden, brown and delicious.

Chicken Cordon Bleu packs SO much flavor and why it's so high on my list of all time favorite eats, but it's also a labor intensive dish to make in the classic preparation.  It's not exactly a meal one can prepare in under 30 minutes.  

Enter the grill...

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Deli sliced ham preparation

I also love just about anything grilled, so it hit me, why not try to incorporate Chicken Cordon Bleu flavors in a grilled preparation and to be specific, a meat on a stick preparation.  Who doesn't LOVE meat on a stick!?

So today, I'm developing a new recipe for Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on a Stick, which you get to witness at the experimental/entry level.

I'm going to use two pounds of ground chicken, mixed with a chicken rotisserie spice made by a local spice merchant and incorporate an egg to bind it with.  Ground chicken is lean, so some extra fat will be needed to help prevent dryness and any falling apart on the skewers.

For the ham and cheese portions, I'm going to do this three different ways to find out which works out best, evaluating ease of preparation and taste.

  1. Wrap a slice of Swiss cheese and deli sliced ham on the skewers then wrap with the ground chicken mixture
  2. Lay out a portion of the chicken mixture, flatten on plastic wrap, add diced ham and diced Swiss cheese, then roll it and skewer
  3. Wrap skewers with ham loaf from my local butcher, add strips of Swiss cheese, then wrap the ham & Swiss with the ground chicken
Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
The deli sliced ham version turned out the best

Going in, I'm going to predict option 3 tastes the best.  But it will also need the most grilling time since it's not a pre-cooked ham product.

To make it as "Cordon Bleu" as possible, I'll be hitting the skewers with a garlic butter and bread crumb mixture just before pulling from the grill, letting the flame kiss the meat on a stick a little bit to crisp the topping. 

In staying as classic as possible with the first preparation, the deli sliced ham was easy enough to wrap on the skewers, the Swiss cheese, not so much.  I was tempted to half the cheese slices and layer them, but I finally was able to get everything all under control and properly wrapped under the seasoned ground chicken layer on the skewer.  Once that was done, they went back in the fridge to chill.  Remember Grilling Tip #1 from Chapter 2:  Ground meats should be cold when putting on the grill. If they’re at room temperature, ground meats tend to fall apart or droop through the cooking grate.

In working with the second version, the diced ham and diced Swiss cheese, what I thought would be the easiest wrap and skewer was actually the most difficult.  I'll admit to putting too much ham and cheese on initially, but the dice of the ham was too large, it ended up poking through the ground chicken and maneuvering the plastic wrap in a sushi roll type preparation was a bit of a challenge.

The third version - using the ham loaf - was easy to put on skewers and I did slice the Swiss cheese into strips before wrapping things up with the ground chicken.  Points here for the easiest prep.

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu with sauce
Sauced with a Dijon Cream

After getting some chill time in the fridge, it was time to grill.  I started things off by grilling versions 1 and 2 and the skewers over indirect heat, a reverse sear.  The ham in these versions is already cooked, so all I had to worry about was ensuring the ground chicken was cooked through, with the ham warmed through and the cheese melted.  Grill marks would come later when applying the garlic butter and bread crumb mixture over direct heat.  I kept the skewers away from the flame, turning a quarter turn about every 10 minutes.  Then using my handy dandy grill safe butter dish, brushed on some garlic butter and Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs over the flame.  The ham loaf version needed a little more cooking time over indirect heat, to ensure the ham loaf on the interior was cooked through.

Developing this recipe was a lot of fun to prep, take notes, grill and eat!  My prediction however, that the ham loaf version would taste the best, was wrong.  It was second best.  The more classic preparation, using the sliced deli ham won the day in both flavor and presentation.  You get layers of flavor with the slices of ham and a different texture element along with the consistent and wrapped slice of melted Swiss cheese within.  The ham loaf version while tasty, lacked the texture element - all meats being ground - and the cheese flavor wasn't as robust using the Swiss in strips.  Coming in third out of three, the diced ham version.  Diced just doesn't measure up to sliced or loaf, in fact one of the diced skewers fell apart on the grill, there was too much moisture in the ham dice, it steamed the inside of this preparation resulting in flavors that just came out flat.

With the deli sliced ham version being the champ, I'll be posting the full recipe in the Poultry section of Grilling Good Eats, to include the Dijon Cream Sauce.

Enjoy everybody!

I take great pleasure in grilling good eats!

~ Mike Thayer

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Deli sliced ham version fresh off the grill
Cordon Bleu
Diced version sauced, not a good presentation
Grilled Cordon Bleu
Ham loaf version ready for sauce, check out the cheese ozzing out the side...