So, you’ve got some freezer burned meat. Now what?
What is freezer burn? Dehydration on the surface of frozen food due to air exposure. The food’s still good, it’s just been turned into not quite freeze dried jerky in spots. This means the texture will be… interesting, and it may pick up some flavors from your freezer and fridge. Freezer burnt food loses nutritional value, too, so it’s a shame to have it happen to you.
You can prevent freezer burn by making sure the food you freeze is wrapped well, preventing air from getting into the package. If you buy large packages of meat, and want to freeze it, great! But, repackage into smaller lumps, and wrap it well in first a layer of plastic wrap or cling wrap, then aluminum foil or waxed paper. Make sure there’s no air pockets! Label your lump well with what it is and the date you froze it. Most meat will keep well for 6 months or so, though you can be bold and go longer if (IF!) your meat was very fresh, and you’ve wrapped it well. For maximum storage invest in a vacuum sealer, and freeze those lumps.
But, now you’ve got your meat, and it’s gone all white and splotchy looking. So what do you do now that you realize past you didn’t take all the precautions to prevent freezer burn?
Don’t despair! It’s SAUCE to the rescue!
Your meat is lacking in moisture, has changed in texture, and might have a weird flavor to it now. So, go for a low and slow cooking method, to attempt to infuse some moisture back into your meat, first. Stewing is also good! When faced with leathery meat, reduce it down into well cooked super tender meat bits, or braise it until it begs for mercy. Add some sauce to your meat: go for a strong flavor, not one of those delicate wimpy sauces, oh no. Think stroganoff, marsala, a red wine sauce. You’ll want tons of fat to coat the meat and your tongue (fat carries flavor!) and to make the sauce rich enough that the dried up leather meat isn’t front and center in the dish. A strongly flavored sauce can cover up any oddball flavors your unfortunate meat may have picked up, too.
If you can’t cook your meat in a sauce, but still need to use it up, think of ways to use cooked meat. Got a freezer burned chicken breast? If you cook the hell out of that, even swimming in sauce it’ll still be chewy and stringy and gross. Try roasting it, then shredding it or chopping it roughly, then turning it into chicken salad. Mayonnaise is your friend here: dating back to at least the 1750’s, good ol’ mayonnaise is oil, eggs, and lemon juice (or vinegar), and it can rescue your godawful dried up chicken (or ham, or fish, or beef, or pork) while adding moisture, fat, flavor, and giving you a good ‘glue’ to hold everything together. Roast your questionable meat, then turn it into a salad — serve it as a sandwich filling, to dip your chips into, as a lettuce wrap, or just eat it with a spoon while moaning.
tldr: rescue your freezer burnt meat with sauce, and don’t forget that mayonnaise was invented to help make unpalatable meats taste better. Go heavy on flavor and fat to disguise meat that would be otherwise frankly nasty. You can’t over-season badly freezer burned meat!
How am I dealing with the Pandemic?
I’m channeling my anxiety and fear into cooking, and writing about cooking! This was first published on my facebook profile, and now it’s republished here, for ease of finding and sharing. Need help coping? Or cobbling together a recipe? Hit me up!