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2davidc8's avatar

Does freezing meat adversely affect the taste?

Asked by 2davidc8 (4618 points ) July 14th, 2012

Compare these two cases:
(1) I buy unfrozen meat (beef) from the grocery store and cook it within 1–2 days.
(2) I buy unfrozen meat (beef) from the grocery store, freeze it for 2–3 weeks, then thaw it and cook it.

In my experience, the meat in the second case seems a bit tougher, but otherwise OK in taste. What do you think?

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12 Answers

Nimis's avatar

Short of ice cream, I think freezing anything adversely affects the taste.

creative1's avatar

I found out recently that the meats from the grocery store have had things done to them so to keep off bacteria (such as chickens being soaked in clorine bleach). I have been buying my meats right from a farm now where the they are frozen the day they are slaughtered and even my step-father can’t tell that its been frozen. I am thinking that its because everything I get is frozen but still fresher than what you can possibly get from the grocery store. If I time things right I can get fresh but I have to know each day of the week they do each of the type of meats in order to get it before its been frozen. Which I have done before just to get it fresh without being frozen.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know people say fresh is better. Quoting some big box restaurant ad: “Fresh, never frozen.” But in my experience, I have never been able to tell the difference.
I’ll have mine medium rare please.

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rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t notice a difference unless it is cooked while still frozen. Then it does seem to get tough and yukky. But if properly thawed, it seems fine.

majorrich's avatar

I’ve not tested this, but there was talk at work (i worked at a packing house when I was in college) that freezing may help tenderize meat by the crystallization of the water breaking up the meat fibers a little bit. If it does, It is very subtle. I do know that aging unfrozen beef tends to tenderize the meat. We would leave a quarter or half in the cooler for a couple of weeks or more before cutting it up. and that is pretty much a proven method of improving the taste/experience of consuming beef without chemicals.

Buttonstc's avatar

I’ve heard excellent explanations about this on Food Network, particularly Alton Brown who thoroughly delves into the science of every aspect of food. He’s an absolute guru.

Anyhow, there is a significant difference between freezing things at home and commercial freezing (called flash-freezing).

The difference you’re noticing between the fresh and home frozen meat of yours has more to do with texture than flavor. The frozen is tougher due to water loss after the freezing and subsequent defrosting.

And the ice crystals from home freezing are larger (because of freezes more slowly) therefore more water loss.

When @creative1 buys the frozen meat from the farm it’s almost certainly flash frozen (since theyre a commercial operation) and they want to sell the best product possible. The quicker it’s frozen, the smaller the ice crystals, therefore, significantly less water loss. There will still be some and some people notice it more than others.

There is always some drop in quality (NOT freshnes, but overall quality texture-wise) with any frozen meat.

So, it depends upon how noticeable the texture difference is to each person as to how much effort will be spent to ensure fresh rather than frozen.

There is a memorable incident which sticks out in my mind from a number of years ago. I was eating at a new Chinese restaurant in Philly and I ordered the Teriyaki glazed Salmon. It was so delicious that I came back a few weeks later and ordered the same.

But this time it was absolutely horrible. Stiff, dry, tough and it just tasted awful. I sent it back and ordered something safer instead. (Ordering seafood in an unfamiliar restaurant is always a crapshoot to begin with).

When I asked the waiter if they had hired a different cook in the interim, he said no. But I was curious about why it was so terrible this time and so fantastic before. He then confessed that this time it had been frozen.

So, freezing does matter to one degree or another. And my guess is that this particular fish had been frozen in the restaurants regular freezer (rather than flash frozen from a commercial distributor) because they over ordered and didn’t want to throw out good product. And maybe other diners were fine with it. I wasn’t.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, it has some impact on the taste. Usually not enough to counteract the convenience.

hearkat's avatar

Like @creative1, we have recently found a couple local farms, one of which is organic, where they freeze and vacuum-pack their meats immediately. The first time we opened one of the organic ground beef packages, we were amazed at how different, and delicious – the raw meat smelled, compared to grocery store ground beef. So I believe the source of the meat is the most important, but also that vacuum-sealing makes a difference so the moisture isn’t lost. We’ve purchased a FoodSaver so we can vacuum seal at home, too. I used one in the ‘90s as well, when I had a tighter budget, so I would buy in bulk, then separate portions and pack and freeze them.

Nullo's avatar

Nothing drastic, provided that it’s not in there forever.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t think it affects the taste. It may mess with the texture. Although I have had Omaha Steaks, shipped frozen, and they are so so good. Just let them thaw gently, and they are amazing.

FrankStitt's avatar

Freezing meat dehydrates it some. This adversely effects the flavor as well as texture. It is important to remember that meat at the grocery is not exceedingly fresh to begin with and therefore does not freeze as well as freshly butchered meat. Having said this, freezing meat is an economical solution. If the meat is handled with care when thawing, preparing, and cooking, it can still produce a quality meal.

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