As with most meat, the safest way to thaw beef is in the refrigerator. Small cuts of beef can take up to 24 hours, while larger slabs can take a few days. If you’re in a pinch, frozen beef can be thawed in a bowl or container of lukewarm water. Place the bowl or container in the sink and leave under a running faucet. Never allow raw beef to thaw or sit on a counter or cutting board. Since it takes longer to thaw than most meats, it is more susceptible to bacteria growth.
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In order to effectively freeze beef, you’ll want to limit its exposure to air. This not only prevents the production of freezer burn, but also extends its shelf life to three months or longer. The best way to package beef is to wrap it tightly in freezer paper or plastic wrap. You should then wrap the meat in a layer of aluminum foil or place it in a plastic bag.
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For ground beef, keep refrigerated and use within one to two days. It can stay in its original container if the packaging hasn’t been opened. Steaks follow the same protocol, but can last a bit longer at three to five days. It’s actually best to allow a little airflow with stored meat, as tightly-adhered plastic like Saran wrap can make meat sweat and, as a result, less tender. Meat can be transferred to plastic containers, but should be covered loosely.
Never refrigerate raw meat if it’s been sitting out beyond two hours.
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Pork fares best in the freezer if packaged with freezer-friendly materials like waxed paper, aluminum foil, or heavy-duty plastic bags.
Wrap any meat tightly so that air does not escape and freeze at 0°F. Generally, fresh cuts of pork can last up to six months, while ground pork can last up to three.
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Pork is easiest to thaw when placed in the refrigerator in its original wrapping. Small roasts will take three to five hours per pound, while larger roasts can take up to seven hours per pound. Thawing ground pork depends entirely on the thickness of its packaging.
It is safe to cook frozen or partially-frozen pork, but its cooking time may take 50 percent longer. Frozen pork should not be cooked in a slow cooker.
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Sealed pork products can typically last in the fridge for two to four days, with ground pork having a slightly shorter shelf life at one to three. Ham or other smoked pork products like bacon can be stored for up to a week, though this only applies to products that aren’t vacuum sealed or prepared with preservatives. The latter can obviously last a lot longer.
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Oh, I know: You’ve got a meat loaf recipe already. Well, I think there can never be too many meat loaf recipes, and I wish you’d try mine. It’s an Italian-American one, with sausage meat in it. The whole point is leftovers.
There’s nothing better than a meat loaf sandwich. The question is what kind of sandwich are you going to make? Here are two ideas, but I’d bet you have some of your own.
Break up some escarole into small pieces, season with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and vinegar. Use a bit more vinegar than you would if you were going to serve this as a salad. Make a sandwich with cold sliced meat loaf and close-textured white bread.
Slice some meat loaf and heat it in a small skillet with the leftover pan juices. Slit open a hard roll and add the hot meat loaf and some of the juices. Eat it this way, or cover with a slice or two of mozzarella, run it under the broiler to melt the cheese, and enjoy.
Of course, if you have enough left over, you may want to have another dinner. Pour some of the pan juices into a large skillet. Slice the meat loaf and make a single layer of slices in the pan (or overlap them slightly). Spoon on more pan juices, cover, and heat over medium heat until piping hot.
This recipe was featured as part of our DIY TV Dinners story.