When people purchase fresh meat, the first thing on their minds is to process it quickly to avoid spoilage. Processing can be in form of cooking, freezing or drying depending on the method that suites your purpose. Most people purchase their meat in large quantities and are required to store it for subsequent use. The most common method of storing meat is by freezing.
Freezing meat has many advantages because it keeps the meat fresh and free from spoilage. Also the nutrients and flavor of the meat are retained. Unfortunately, we cannot always be sure to have a constant supply of electricity to keep the freezer running. This makes our frozen meats to thaw after several hours of the freezer’s inactivity.
There are several unwanted changes that can occur in meat when it thaws, they include;
- Loss of Meat Nutrients.
During freezing there is formation of ice crystals. This ice crystals are formed when all the water in the meat reaches their freezing point. Rapid freezing leads to the production of small ice crystals while slow freezing leads to production of large ice crystals. Smaller ice crystals are always preferred. When the meat thaws, this ice crystals pierce the muscle cells of the meat which causes the nutrients to exudate. The amino acids and nucleotide of the meat sip out of the meat in form of exudates leaving a meat which is lesser in nutrients.
- Reduction in Firmness and Texture Quality of the Meat.
When meat thaws, the exudates released after the ice crystals pierce the muscle cells also contains water. This loss of water reduces the water holding capacity of the meat. When water is lost, it affects the weight, appearance and texture of the meat. Loss of water will lead to a meat with loose muscles and invariably, a meat with poor texture. This happens because the joints of the meat muscles have been severed by the ice crystals.
- Loss of Flavour and Sensory Acceptability.
Thawed meats have lesser flavour than normal meat. When such meats are cooked, their taste is not as enticing as that of a meat that was not thawed. This reduction in flavour reduces the general sensory acceptability of the meat.
But meat can be de-frozen without having to worry about all this downsides. Below are some thawing instructions to enable you de-freeze meat and still retain the nutritional quality and sensory acceptability.
- Do not thaw foods at room temperature, like on top of the kitchen counter. This exposes the meat to various bacteria in the atmosphere and also the bacteria’s in the meat that were inactivated by freezing become active again and this is a good opportunity to spoil the meat faster.
- It is best to thaw in a container inside the refrigerator. You can also thaw in cold water or in a microwave. For faster thawing, immerse the frozen food in cold water, keeping the water cold. You may need to change the water every 30 minutes.
- After thawing, cook immediately because microbial growth begins immediately and can cause the meat to spoil.
Once food is thawed in refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze without cooking, although there may be loss of quality due to moisture lost during thawing.