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Freezing steak after best before date (Explained)

Can You Freeze Steak After The Best Before Date?

The “Best Before Date” that you see on a lot of packaged steaks at the grocery store or meat market is a recommended date that tells you how long the meat will be at peak quality. Freezing the steak before this date gives you the best chance of properly preserving its flavor and texture. 

A lot of retailers will put meat that is nearing the Best By date in a discount case or mark it as a “Manager’s Special” price. Though if you’re like me, there’s been a time or two when I’ve forgotten about a packaged steak in the back of my refrigerator.  

In times like this, you can still freeze the steak, and it will still be technically safe to eat later. Though it might not be at peak flavor or texture. 

Your best bet for preserving a steak that is on or around its Best Before Date is to vacuum seal it, and then rapidly freeze it. 

Starting it out for four to six hours in your primary freezer with the fan running at the coldest setting will make the smallest possible ice crystals in the meat. If you freeze it slowly, in a chest freezer without a blower fan, you’ll get large ice crystals in the meat, which can grow, leading to premature freezer burn.  

Once the vacuum-sealed steak is fully frozen, you can label it and move it to your chest freezer for long-term storage. It should keep for three to four months or longer. 

What the Best Before Date Really Means

On packaged steak, the “Best Before Date” is a recommendation about the time frame for the quality and flavor of the meat. It is not specifically an expiration or food safety date.

Though if you let a steak go beyond that date the risk of it developing off-flavors, odors and colors start to go up.

This differs from the “Sell-By date” which informs the retailer about how long they should display the product for sale. Though this still is not a safety date. 

The “Use-By Date” is considered to be the last date the steak can be consumed and still be at peak quality.

When it comes to preserving a steak the “Freeze-Bydate” indicates the last day the steak can be frozen, while still maintaining peak quality. 

I have no qualms about purchasing a steak on or within a day of the Best Before Dates on the label. Though I find that after more than one day, the aroma and the texture start to degrade rapidly. 

Should You Try to Freeze Steak After Best Before Date?

A lot of grocery stores and retail meat markets only print a “Best Before” date on packaged steaks. If you want to retain as much of the peak quality of a steak, you should try to freeze it before that date.

When Would You Need to Freeze Steak After the Best Before Date?

You might not immediately notice when the grocery store or meat market slashes the price of the packaged steak right at the best before the date. Though it’s also just as possible for you to forget you have a pack of steaks in the back of the fridge until the time for peak quality is running out. 

While it might not be at its absolute best in terms of flavor or texture, a lot of these steaks that are technically past the Best By Date can still be frozen to preserve what remains of their quality. Many can still be quite tasty and safe to eat if you freeze them correctly. 

How to Properly Freeze the Steak?

Rapid freezing and vacuum sealing are the two most critical factors when it comes to preserving the quality of a soon-to-be frozen steak

Vacuum sealing reduces the air contact with the meat to help seal in freshness before freezing. It’s something you can only do while the steak is raw, and also helps minimize the amount of space the steak takes up in the freezer.

Food saver, Pro Seal, and Anova are some of the best vacuum sealers to help seal steak before freezing. This will prevent oxidation and increase the amount of time it takes for freezer burn to develop on the meat. 

Rapid freezing also makes for smaller ice crystals in the meat as well as on the surface. This too will reduce the risk of freezer burn, while also preserving the integrity of the meat fibers for a more pleasant texture when thawed. 

When you’re ready, you can use the following steps to properly freeze a steak. It’s best to start the freezing process with a conventional freezer with a fan, then later you can move it to a chest freezer for long-term storage.  

Step One: An hour before you plan to freeze the steak place a half or quarter sheet pan in your freezer and turn the freezer to its coldest setting 

Step Two: Pat the surface of each steak dry with a paper towel.

Step Three: Use your vacuum sealer to seal each steak individually. 

Step Four: Place each steak in the freezer on top of the wire rack leaving at least an inch in between each steak for optimum air circulation.  

Step Five: Carefully flip the steak after an hour to ensure even freezing. 

Step Six: After four to six hours the steaks should be completely frozen, and you can label them before moving them to a chest freezer for long-term storage. 

Kept cold, these properly frozen steaks should be able to avoid freezer burn for as much as 3 to 4 months or longer. 

Final Thoughts

The Best Before date on steaks and other cuts of meat isn’t a food safety notice. Instead, it’s meant to note the point where the steak’s quality will start to diminish. 

You can still purchase a steak that’s been steeply discounted on the best before date or even a few days after and still enjoy a quality cut of meat. Though it might not be as flavorful or have the same succulent texture it would earlier in its shelf life. 

You can also freeze a steak on or a few days after the best before date. Vacuum sealing while fresh, and rapidly freezing in a conventional freezer at its coldest setting will produce the smallest ice crystals in the meat.

This will go a long way toward preventing freezer burn. When it’s time to thaw the steaks, soaking them in the vacuum-sealed bag in a sink basin of cold water for an hour does the best job of preserving the steak’s original texture.