How to freeze, defrost and reheat beef
What you need to know
How to freeze fresh beef
- Trim beef to ensure safe and even defrosting.
- Separate cuts into meal-size portions.
- Flatten butcher's mince before packing, so it defrosts evenly.
- Place beef in good-quality plastic bags and wrap in foil for extra protection.
- Remove excess air and seal securely.
- Label the bags with the cut name, weight, amount and date of packaging.
- Freeze up to the recommended storage time for your particular cut.
Freezer storage times for fresh beef
Ideal temperature -18°C to -15°C
Fresh beef cuts
|Beef sausages||1-2 months|
|Beef mince||2-3 months|
|Beef strips||2-3 months|
|Diced beef||2-3 months|
|Thin steaks (minute)||2-3 months|
|Roasts (boned and rolled)||4-6 months|
|Roasts (bone in)||4-6 months|
|Corned beef (fresh)||4-6 months|
|Vacuum-packed meat (unopened)||4-6 months|
Cooked beef dishes
|All cooked beef dishes||1 month|
Freezing beef prolongs storage time because it prevents microbial growth. Follow the recommended storage times to enjoy beef at its best and safest.
Why freezer storage times for cooked beef dishes are shorter than fresh beef
Certain flavours in cooked dishes, such as onion and garlic, oxidise in the freezer over time – it's known as flavour tainting. Because many cooked beef dishes contain one or both of these ingredients, we recommend storing for no more than one month to keep the flavours tasting fresh.
How to defrost raw beef in the fridge
The best way to defrost beef is to leave it in the fridge until completely thawed. You'll need to plan ahead, but the tender, juicy results are worth the wait!
- Remove beef from freezer and separate portions.
- Keep beef in freezer wrapping and place it on a dish.
- Store on bottom shelf of fridge until thawed and consume within the recommended fridge storage time.
Frozen fresh beef average thawing times
|Large roast||4–7 hours per 500g|
|Small roast||3–5 hours per 500g|
|Steaks (about 3cm thick)||About 12 hours or overnight.|
How to defrost raw beef in the microwave
Pressed for time? Defrosting beef in the microwave is a saviour when you need to speed things up.
- Remove freezer bag or wrap. This prevents your beef from sitting in 'drip' and stewing while defrosting.
- If freezer wrap doesn't come off easily, wait a few minutes and try again.
- Discard any Styrofoam trays – they're not microwave safe.
- Use the pre-programmed ‘defrost’ setting on your microwave.
- When defrosting mince, remove outer portions from the dish as they thaw, and set aside.
- If the edges of cuts feel warm, stop microwaving and allow beef to stand for a few minutes until the edges are cold again.
- Cook beef immediately after defrosting. Make sure it doesn't stand for any length of time at room temperature or in the fridge.
Refreezing defrosted raw beef
Always cook defrosted beef before refreezing to ensure the greatest beef experience and avoid any microbial risk.
Beef cuts contain a high percentage of water. When frozen, tiny ice crystals form within the meat's structure. These crystals rupture the fibre of the meat, causing it to leach water when defrosted. That's why, apart from being potentially unsafe, repeated freezing causes beef to dry out.
How to reheat cooked beef in the microwave
Pre-prepared meals are a lifesaver when you need to get that hot meal on the table in minutes. For a fast, safe and tasty result, follow our expert tips:
- Reheat your beef dish in individual portions.
- Place veggies in the centre of the plate and the beef around the outside.
- Sprinkle beef with a little water or stock to prevent it drying out.
- Cover with a microwave lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap to trap steam and keep the meal moist.
- Place plate towards the outside of the microwave turntable.
- Reheat meal for 2 minutes on high, and then stand for 1 minute.
- Feel the centre bottom of the plate to ensure meal is thoroughly heated.
- To assist with even heating, turn plate halfway through the cooking time.
- Take care when removing the lid or plastic wrap – the steam released can burn!
How to reheat casseroles in the microwave
- Place casserole in a deep-sided dish. Cover dish to speed reheating and trap moisture.
- Position casserole dish on the outside of the turntable.
- Reheat on a high setting. Timing will vary on the casserole quantity.
- Stir occasionally during reheating to distribute the heat.
- Wait until the casserole is piping hot and has bubbled for at least 2 minutes.
- Look out for the hot steam when removing the lid!
Have you noticed how you get cold spots in food when you're cooking in the microwave? Pesky microorganisms can survive in these cold spots. Make sure you:
- Follow microwave or ready-meal cooking instructions.
- Trap steam by covering food with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap.
- Stir food and turn large items over during cooking. Rotate the dish once or twice – even if you have a rotating turntable.
- Cut food into similarly sized pieces or arrange thicker pieces on the outside of the dish.
Don't forget – food continues to cook after microwaving. Always wait 3–5 minutes, or for the recommended standing time, before tucking in.