You're at the supermarket and you notice a great deal on those prepackaged corned beef briskets and you wonder – 'Can I freeze corned beef?' Yes, you can, but you'll want to do it correctly to get the best results. We'll walk through the right way to freeze corned beef so that you get delicious meals and the convenience of easy storage.
How to Freeze Corned Beef
Is it better to freeze corned beef before or after cooking? If you are buying the prepackaged corned beef that is in liquid brine, you'll want to take a couple of steps before freezing it. The first decision to make is whether you want to freeze it cooked or uncooked.
Freeze Corned Beef Brisket that's Uncooked
The first step to take is that you'll need to get the corned beef out of the pickling juices that it is in. Drain it and rinse well, making sure to get all the spices off of the meat. Next, you'll wrap it as tightly as possible in plastic wrap. Wrap it again, making sure that the meat is completely covered. Then, place it in a freezer bag and squeeze out the air. Tightly wrapped corned beef will keep in the freezer for two to three months without any significant change in texture or flavor.
Freeze Corned Beef that's Cooked
If you've had your fill of corned beef (here's our favorite recipe!) and you are worried it will go bad before you get a chance to eat it all, you can freeze it. Drain the corned beef as best as possible, then double wrap in plastic wrap and put it in a freezer bag. It'll keep for several months. This is an excellent way to avoid wasting leftover corned beef.
What about Freezing Sliced Corned Beef
Corned beef slices can be frozen just like a whole corned beef, but there are some ways you can make it work better. First, you are going to want to place a piece of parchment paper or butcher paper in between each slice, then stack the slices into single-meal portions. Double wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag, squeezing the air out before placing it in the freezer. When you freeze leftover corned beef slices in portions, you can take out just what you want when you are ready.
Pro Tips for Freezing Corned Beef
One of the best things you can invest in if you are going to store meat is a vacuum sealer. These handy tools ensure that excess air isn't trapped in the package. Air is the enemy of freezing anything, including corned beef. Air allows freezer burn to develop and provides an environment where bacteria can grow. They aren't very expensive and you'll find lots of opportunities to use vacuum-sealed bags.
Another tip that is important is to put the date that you froze the meat on the outside of the bag. This way you'll know when it went into the freezer so you can be sure to eat it before it goes bad. A magic marker works great. We also write what is in the bag because it is surprisingly easy to forget whether it's a pork loin or leftover corned beef after a month or two.
Reheating Frozen Corned Beef
If you are reheating an uncooked corned beef, the process is simple. Just add it into the water or put it in the slow cooker. You don't have to wait for it to thaw out since it cooks at a low and slow temperature. The moist cooking method ensures that the meat thaws and then cooks without any problems. Uncooked corned beef brisket is easy to handle.
Defrost Frozen Corned Beef that is Cooked
If you've got corned beef that is frozen after cooking, you'll need to thaw it out first. Don't use a microwave to thaw it because it'll get a weird texture. Instead, defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Once it is defrosted, you have a couple of options for reheating. The easiest way is to place the corned beef in a shallow glass baking dish and add a few tablespoons of water. Cover and place cooked corned beef in the oven at 275-degrees until it is appropriately warmed up.
Alternatively, you can use a boiling bag or sous vide machine to reheat cooked corned beef. This will work well, but don't overcook it.
How Long Does Corned Beef Last in the Freezer?
Freezing corned beef will extend the life of the meat, but you'll also want to make sure that it hasn't gone bad in the freezer. Prolonged freezing can have various effects on meat, and corned beef can particularly get strange when it's been frozen too long. The key signs to look for when thawing or reheating a frozen corned beef are a sour smell and a slimy texture. Corned beef that has been pickled or cured leaches collagen to the surface, giving the meat a gelatinous texture some people describe as slimy. This is okay, but if the meat also smells sour, discard it. Better safe than sorry.
The curing process helps to preserve the meat, but corned beef should still be eaten within a week of removing it from the packaging. We typically recommend freezing corned beef for up to three months. Any longer than that and the meat texture will start to break down into an unpleasant mess.
The freezing process will help to extend the life of your corned beef, but you'll want to take precautions to make sure that the finished product is still good. Removing the brining solution from prepackaged corned beef is the first step because the juices can harbor bacteria that might cause souring or rancidity. Keep in mind you can store unopened corned beef in your refrigerator up to the sell-by date or about seven days before you need to worry about freezing it.
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