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Can You Vacuum Seal Frozen Meat (and Should You)?

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Imagine this scenario. You bought a bunch of frozen meat at a flash sale at the grocery store, and now you don’t know what to do with it. You have a vacuum sealer but wonder if it can be used for this purpose.

You can vacuum seal frozen meat, and you should. When you vacuum seal frozen meat, it keeps it fresher longer and reduces the risk of freezer burn when you store it long term.

Vacuum sealing machines are expensive, but generally well worth the investment.

In this article, I’ll discuss the reasons you may want to vacuum seal your frozen meat as well as the best ways to go about doing so.

How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Raw Meat Last in the Freezer?

Vacuum sealing works by removing all of the air from the packaging when you refrigerate or freeze your meat. Air is necessary for the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold, which all expedite the process of making your food dangerous to eat.

Vacuum sealed raw meat can last in the freezer up to five times longer than it would if you used traditional wrapping methods. By vacuum sealing, your meat can last years in the freezer depending on what type it is.

Similarly, if your meat can last roughly six months to a year in traditional packaging in your freezer, you can extend this timeline to between two and three years by vacuum sealing it prior to freezing.

Type of MeatVacuum-Sealed Frozen Storage Times
Beef, Wild Game18-36 months
Ground/Minced MeatUp to 12 months
Sandwich Meats4-6 months
Poultry18-36 months
Source1 Source2
These dates are guidelines based on a 0 degrees F temperature. Dates may vary based on the quality of storage practices.

Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last Longer In the Fridge?

While frozen meat can last for years without being compromised, the shelf life for raw meat kept in the refrigerator is significantly shorter. 

Vacuum sealed meat can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, while unsealed meat in the refrigerator can last for only a few days. The reason for this is that unsealed meat is more likely to develop mold due to the extra air in the package.

Exactly how long you can safely store your meat varies depending on what type of meat it is and how long you’ve had it before you vacuum seal it. 

Refer to this chart from Colorado State University Extension if you’re curious how long you can safely store certain types of meat in the refrigerator and freezer, as well as other perishable food types.

Using Vacuum Sealing as a Way To Preserve Freshness

Not only does vacuum sealing your meat extend its shelf life, but it ensures that your meat stays fresh and tastes good whenever you get around to eating it.

By not allowing it to have access to oxygen, you prevent freezer burn. This affects the freshness of the meat, and you avoid aerobic bacteria that may have any secondary effects such as the production of odor or the alteration of iron content in your meat. 

Using Vacuum Sealing as a Way of Preventing Freezer Burn

If you intend to freeze your meat as a way of keeping it fresher longer, you run the risk of exposing it to freezer burn. Freezer burn occurs when food has prolonged exposure to the dry, cold air in your freezer, dehydrating the food over time.

The gray, dusty color that your food gets after months in the freezer occurs due to dehydration, which can seriously affect the flavor and quality of your meat.

Vacuum sealing meat prevents freezer burn from occurring because the plastic barrier and lack of oxygen lock in the meat’s natural moisture content.

Should I Vacuum Seal Steak Dry or Moist?

Depending on the type of vacuum sealer you own, you have two different options for sealing your vacuum bags, including dry or moist modes.

You should vacuum seal steak moist if it’s marinated, or dry if it’s not. Most foods are intended to be sealed using dry mode. Only particularly juicy or moist foods need to be sealed using the moist mode. 

Success with vacuum sealing meat is all about understanding how to use your vacuum sealing machine to get the best results. The moist feature on your machine is designed to lock in more moisture and create a strong enough seal that the moisture in the food won’t weaken the seal over time.

However, keep in mind that the dry mode on your vacuum sealer is the default mode designed to seal most foods effectively. 

If you find that you’re having less success with the moist mode when sealing your steaks, consider using the dry mode a few times to determine which mode you have more success with.

How To Vacuum Seal Meat With Liquid

If you made a large batch of food that you need to store, or you know you want to marinate your meat ahead of time, vacuum-sealing your meat with liquid is easy and effective.

High-quality vacuum sealers should provide you with the ability to vacuum seal liquids without much effort. However, many people find it difficult to vacuum seal liquid foods, even with the best products on the market. If you have difficulty vacuum sealing meat with liquid, there are a few easy options you can consider as a way of improving your success rate.

Here’s how to vacuum seal meat with liquid:

  1. Freeze the liquid before sealing your vacuum bag. 
  2. Fill your vacuum bags with the meat and liquid and leave them in the freezer for a few hours until the liquid freezes. 
  3. Once the liquid has become solid, you can seal the bags and store them in the freezer or refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them.

If you don’t have enough room in your freezer to allow your bags to freeze before sealing, you can consider using an ice tray as a way to isolate and freeze the liquid.

Simply pour the liquid marinade or sauce into an ice cube tray, allow the liquid to freeze, and then divide the ice cubes among your vacuum bags of meat and seal them before refrigerating or freezing. 

It is perfectly safe and convenient to vacuum seal liquids. There are workarounds to temporarily solidify your liquids if you’re having difficulty sealing your vacuum bags without getting liquid in the seal.

Advantages of Vacuum Sealing Meat

There are several advantages of vacuum sealing your meat. 

First and foremost, vacuum sealing is a highly effective method for increasing the shelf life of your meat. It guarantees the removal of oxygen from its packaging, meaning your meat will last significantly longer whether you choose to freeze or refrigerate it.

Vacuum sealing also prevents freezer burn, odor, or any bacterial, fungal, or mold growth that would make the meat inedible or unappetizing. Additionally, vacuum sealing is significantly less labor-intensive than other forms of meat storage in that you simply place your meat in a bag and push a button. 

Other methods may require several layers of wrapping and sealing your meat to achieve a less effective sealing effect.

Variety of Meats in a Deep Freezer
I should have removed these from the original package and vacuum-sealed them myself.

Disadvantages of Vacuum Sealing Meat

The main disadvantage of vacuum sealing meat is the cost. Vacuum sealing machines can be a considerable cost upfront, not to mention the continual cost of purchasing vacuum bags. However, depending on how much meat you intend to store, you could offset the cost of the vacuum sealer with the price you spent on the meat itself if improperly stored and wasted.

In addition to the cost of the vacuum sealing machine and vacuum bags, you should consider the storage options you have for a vacuum sealer.

While you can keep a roll of butcher paper in a drawer, a vacuum sealer, especially a commercial-grade one, may require a considerable amount of storage in your kitchen.

Does Vacuum Sealing Actually Preserve Meat?

Taking into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of vacuum sealing meat, you may still wonder if vacuum sealing actually preserves meat.

Vacuum sealing actually preserves meat by removing oxygen’s ability to access the meat, which would otherwise cause discoloration or the growth of bacteria or mold.

The primary function of a vacuum sealer is to prolong the shelf life of perishable foods. 

When used on meat, it can extend the shelflife up to five times as long when frozen. Vacuum sealers are effective at preserving meat in both the refrigerator and freezer and when used correctly, they are one of the best methods available for storing meat.

It also allows you to preserve meat with sauce, marinade, or other liquids, making it a more effective storage solution than options such as butcher paper or plastic wrap.

Should Meat Be Frozen Before Vacuum Sealing?

If you’re vacuum-sealing meat with a large amount of liquid and you froze it to solidify the liquid, then you don’t need to take freezing your meat prior to sealing into consideration. However, it is best practice to freeze your meat before vacuum sealing regardless of liquid content.

Meat does not need to be frozen before vacuum sealing. If it is fresh, and you freeze it right after you vacuum seal it, it will stay fresh even if it wasn’t frozen first. However, it might affect the meat’s flavor if it isn’t frozen first.

Freezing your meat before vacuum sealing provides an opportunity to kill any harmful bacteria that may be growing before preservation. This means that it will not preserve the bacteria along with the meat itself.

In addition to improved safety, by freezing your meat before vacuum sealing, you can also positively affect the flavor by freezing all of the natural juices before beginning the process of preservation that occurs once the meat has been sealed.

One thing to consider when you freeze your meat prior to sealing it is that your meat may have some hard edges that could potentially puncture the vacuum bag, rendering your vacuum bag inoperational.

While vacuum bags are relatively durable, you’ll want to double-check the bag before putting it into the refrigerator or freezer to ensure that no punctures were made.

Vacuum Sealed Frozen Ribeye
Freezing first might be the best way.

Is Vacuum Sealing Better Than Butcher Paper?

Many people choose to store their meat in butcher paper and sometimes even put meat that they’ve bought from the butcher or a store directly into the freezer without further sealing its wrapping.

Vacuum sealing is better than butcher paper. While you can store meat using butcher paper and even remove a lot of air using this option, vacuum sealing offers a more practical storage solution than butcher paper.

To effectively store meat in butcher paper, it is best first to wrap your meat in butcher paper tightly and tape it shut. You will then want to wrap this layer in another layer of tin foil or plastic wrap and tape that shut as well to prevent oxygen from reaching the meat.

However, even when done to the best of your abilities, you will still not be able to remove as much oxygen as you can using a vacuum sealer. 

That said, if you’re not concerned with storing your meat for extended periods, butcher paper is a much more cost-effective method of storing meat.

Can I Vacuum Seal Frozen Meat In Butcher Paper?

You can vacuum seal meat in butcher paper, but it isn’t necessary as the vacuum sealing is sufficient in keeping the meat from spoiling or getting freezer burned. If you do choose to keep the butcher paper on your meat, you should wrap it in plastic wrap before vacuum sealing it.

While you can vacuum seal frozen meat in butcher paper, there is really no need to. 

If anything, keeping the butcher paper on has the potential to compromise the efficacy of the vacuum seal, and even if it doesn’t the end results are the same whether you keep the paper on or take it off.

Final Thoughts

Vacuum sealing your meat is an excellent choice if you often have leftovers or you buy or hunt your meat in bulk. By vacuum sealing, you can extend the shelf life of your meat between three and five times and preserve the meat’s natural flavor.

While there are other storage options for your meat, such as butcher paper, vacuum sealing offers a long-term solution that ensures no air can reach your meat while it’s stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you’re considering storing meat in your freezer long-term, you should vacuum seal it for optimum results.

For more, check out How to Cut Frozen Fish (Which Tool to Use).

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