While I have been trying to cut down on my meat consumption lately, I still do enjoy making a few of my fave meat dishes at home each week. In an effort to save time and money, I have also been attempting to plan all my meals in advance, so I only need to go food shopping one or two times a week as necessary. Planning my meals in advance usually means they’ll be a bit healthier as well, as it cuts down on the last minute takeaways I end up buying when I haven’t organised myself properly. Planning and shopping in this way takes a bit of time but I reckon it’s so worth it – and I’ve definitely noticed a reduction in the amount of money I’ll spend on food weekly. I’m saving like a crazy lady for my trip to Singapore/Japan in just under two months and this is definitely giving me a helping hand!

One thing that has kind of been a bit of a dent in my planning at the moment is how long to store meat in the fridge. Since I don’t like going to the shops more than a week – I often struggle with how long I should be keeping fresh, uncooked meat in the fridge and Google hasn’t been a big help.

From my high school years, our food-tech teacher put the fear of God in her students in regards to cooking chicken safely. We watched several videos on the evils of salmonella and about how important it is to defrost your chicken or store raw chicken before cooking. However I didn’t really learn much about how *long* we should be keeping things and when I want to plan to cook specific recipes and buy ahead of time, its a bit difficult to know when to use up the meat, or how long it should be staying in the fridge before bacteria develops and is no longer safe to eat.

Prior to this, I kind of tried to keep to a 2-3 day rule to raw meat in the fridge, or to whatever end-dates were listed on packaged meat I would buy from Coles, etc. to help guide me. However this year I’ve resolved to buy more of my produce from better markets (i.e. Harris Farm Markets) rather than Coles as it seems that the fruit, veg and meat is not only cheaper from there, but also a great deal better in quality and freshness and have thus reduced my visits to regular supermarkets as of late – which means no more clearly labeled meat products.

On a recent visit to Harris Farm Markets butcher, I asked the butcher who served me for some tips on how long I could keep fresh meat at home in the fridge. What he told me I found quite surprising.

He advised that:

  • You should only store fresh meat for just 1 day in the fridge before you plan to cook it. If you intend to cook your meat longer than this, you should put it in the freezer as soon as you get home.
  • If you are planning to store your meat in the fridge for that one day, it needs to be removed from the plastic from the store and placed on a plate and covered with foil, rather than plastic (I’m not sure why he mentioned foil rather than plastic – do you know why this is? I assumed it would be cling wrap, but he corrected me by saying that you should use foil instead). If you intend to freeze your meat straight away, it is fine however to keep it in the plastic it came in.

Here I had some lovely beef ribs to be cooked the next day, so I removed them from the plastic, popped them on a plate, covered them with foil and put them in the fridge.

The butcher also said that the reasoning for keeping the meat in your fridge for only one day is because conventional home fridges do not run as cold as professional butcher’s fridges. Butchers’ usually run their fridges from 0-1 degrees, which allows them to keep the meat for much longer than 1 day. But in order to keep your meat free from bacteria at home, it only really can safely last for about 1 day in conventional fridges. When I asked if the one-day rule applies to all kinds of meats (i.e. beef, pork, chicken), he said that he would indeed apply this rule to all meats.

I was really surprised with this advice that he gave me (although I intend to follow it from now on!) as it’s completely the opposite of what I would normally do. I usually buy packaged meats and just leave them in the fridge for 2-3 days (usually shorter for chicken, but sometimes longer for beef) but had no idea that I shouldn’t be leaving them for more than 1 day.

It made me wonder a bit about the chicken I would normally buy from Coles as it often has a use-by date up to a week after I’ve bought it. Does this mean that they’ve put some sort of preservatives or etc into the chicken to make it last longer? I really don’t know, but if it is, I imagine that’s not really something I’d like to have in my food!

If I’m to be completely honest too, I actually quite dislike freezing meat. I often find that when it defrosts, it comes out slimey and smells strange… Mind you, this has only happened a handful of times. Am I freezing my meat incorrectly perhaps? I have had much more success in freezing cooked meats in the past, however but have really only tried that with beef mince, but not cooked chicken, etc.

So readers, do you have any tips on meat safety at home? Do you freeze raw meat and what sorts of results do you get with that? How about freezing cooked meats? How do you find the texture of frozen meat (cooked or uncooked) after it’s been defrosted ?I’m also curious about whether this same rule applies to fish and/or smoked fish meat. I would love to hear all about what sorts of things you normally do!

As luck would have it, just prior to posting this article, I was contacted by Mike Stewart, a writer and Editor in Chief for Australian Food Safety News who told me he’d be happy to answer any food safety questions you might have so please ask away and Mike choose a few to answer that I will post on the blog!

Hope you had a great weekend!