Here's a quick guide!

It's about time to start cleaning out your fridge and freezer for your holiday cooking. But how long does meat stay good in the freezer?

In theory, frozen food kept at or below zero degrees is acceptable to eat indefinitely. Here's a quick primer on how long those frozen meats can be kept before they start to degrade in quality.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, here are some good guidelines to use as a reference. This is approximately how long you can store food in the freezer before you should cook it:

  • Whole chicken, turkey, or duck: 1 year
  • Chicken or turkey parts: 9 months
  • Raw ground meats: 3 to 4 months
  • Raw sausage (any meat): 1 to 2 months
  • Raw steaks: 6 to 12 months
  • Raw chops: 4 to 6 months
  • Raw roasts: 4 to 12 months

What about those leftovers? Are they safe to eat after a stint in the freezer? Cooked poultry or meat can be good for 2 to 6 months, as long as you package it properly. 

Use plastic bags especially designed for freezer storage, or go for a vacuum seal pouch if you can. Discard meat or food that has visible signs of freezer burn like unusual white or lightened spots.

frozen steak

Courtesy of the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences

The safest way to keep food fresh in the freezer is to follow the FDA guidelines, so label everything with the contents and date. Blue painter's tape is great for this, as long as you use a permanent marker.

Though your freezer can be a great way to preserve your food, vigilance and organization is key. Follow the simple chart to make sure you're on top of your frozen meats and leftovers this holiday season.

Be honest: Do you have mystery meat taking up valuable freezer space? If not, what's your secret? Let us know in the comments!