Vacuum sealing is touted as the best long-term storage method for preserving meats and other food items. However, people believe that it’s possible to store vacuum-sealed meats until the freezer breaks down – a widespread misconception. So how long does vacuum sealed meat last in the freezer?
Raw meat that’s properly vacuum-sealed and placed into a freezer will typically lasts 1-3 years before it begins to go bad. However, the same meat placed inside of a freezer bag would only lasts 2-12 months before it starts to spoil.
Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to the question: “how long does vacuum sealed meat last?” Storage duration depends on several factors such as the method of storage, food preparation, packaging quality, temperature, etc.
In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about preserving vacuum-sealed meats and more.
How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last?
To help you get a more accurate duration, let’s categorize the answers based on the storage method:
How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last In the Freezer?
Freezing has always been the most effective and optimized way to store meat and other food items. Storage simply boils down to placing the meat inside a plastic bag or freezer bag, throwing it into the freezer, and setting the right temperature.
Typically, freezing the meat without vacuum sealing can give you six to eight months of safe storage. For cooked meat in the freezer, the FDA recommends that you only allow freezer storage for two to three months.
Meanwhile, vacuum-sealed raw meat can last for two to three years in the freezer by taking out the air via vacuum sealing. On the other hand, vacuum-sealed cooked meat can last up to 3 to 12 months in the freezer.
How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last In the Refrigerator?
Outside of super long-term storage and survival applications, most people keep their meat in the fridge instead of a standalone freezer.
If you store your raw steaks and chops in a refrigerator with a temperature of 40 °F or below, it will take three to five days before they get spoiled. Cooked meats and meat dishes have a similar storage window of three to four days.
Conversely, the shelf life of raw meat can be extended up to 14 days with vacuum sealing. For vacuum-sealed cooked meats in the fridge, the storage time is reduced to four to five days.
How Long Does Vacuum Sealed Meat Last at Room Temperature?
Perishable goods like meat shouldn’t be left in the open at room temperature. Otherwise, the bacteria found in raw meat will start to develop, rendering it unsafe for human consumption. Typically, the two-hour rule should apply when letting the meat sit at room temperature, regardless of the type of meat.
What about vacuum-sealed meat at room temperature? Vacuum-sealed raw meat may be maintained at room temperature for up to 15 days. However, the USDA doesn’t recommend storing meats and poultry at room temperature, whether vacuum packaged or not.
The two-hour rule also applies to cooked meat and meat dishes. If cooked meat is left in the open for more than two hours, don’t eat or throw it back into the fridge – discard it.
Why Should You Vacuum Seal Meat?
Is it worth it to vacuum seal your meats for storage? Below are the top reasons why you should vacuum seal meat and other food products:
Preserve Food Quality and Safety
Food quality and safety are preserved by completely sealing the bag via vacuum sealing. Oxygen and heat exposure will enable bacteria growth that causes meat spoilage.
Freezing the meat in a plastic bag or film will still allow oxygen to permeate the packaging. Vacuum packaging does a better job by completely removing all the air from the bag, preventing oxidation, and slowing down bacteria growth. Plus, vacuum sealing preserves the freshness and taste of the meats too.
Increased Shelf Life
Undoubtedly, the primary advantage of vacuum sealing meats is to increase shelf life. Studies have shown that vacuum-sealed food may increase shelf life by as much as 50% to 400%. This is because vacuum sealing creates an ideal atmosphere within the packaging for long-term storage.
Increased shelf life also means less wasted food because you rarely have to throw anything away due to spoilage. For this reason, vacuum packaging plus freezing is the preferred storage method for many survivalists and preppers.
Convenient and Optimized Storage
When vacuum sealing, you’re optimizing your freezer’s storage space by simply stacking food items over each other. Furthermore, it’s easier to categorize based on meat types and how you want to consume them down the line.
Vacuum sealing also provides a massive benefit if you buy meat in bulk. Due to its extended shelf life, you can purchase meat products in large quantities while in the season without worrying about food spoilage. This enables you to save more money down the line.
Prevent Freezer Burn
Freezer burn is a term used when moisture is lost from frozen meat due to being left in the freezer for a long time. Freezer burn negatively affects the meat’s taste and texture. When freezing meat loses moisture, it looks discolored, shriveled, and covered in ice crystals.
Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn by trapping the natural moisture within the meat and preventing it from evaporating.
How to Vacuum Seal Meat
Vacuum sealing meats and other food products is a relatively straightforward process. However, there’s quite a sizable upfront cost for buying the vacuum sealer.
What You’ll Need:
- Vacuum sealer – The primary appliance you’ll need to start vacuum sealing.
- Sealing bags – Generally sold in a variety of sizes
- Labeler – You may use tags, markers, etc.
Steps on How to Vacuum Seal Meat
Always read the instruction manual that came with your sealer, so you’ll know how to operate it. Also, make sure you practice proper food handling during vacuum sealing. Follow the steps below:
- Inspect the meat and ensure that it’s fresh and shows no signs of spoilage. Wash the meat in running water and
- Cut your meat into your desired portions. A good rule of thumb is that each packaging should be enough for one meal.
- Cut the bags according to your portion sizes. The bags should be a few inches longer than the food on all sides.
- Using the vacuum sealer, secure the bottoms of each bag. Give at least half an inch of room, so the seal isn’t placed all the way to the edges of the pack. The allowance makes the bags easier to handle.
- Fill the bag with your meat product and seal the bottom. Position the meat evenly towards the closed bottom of the bag. There should be at least an inch of space at the top of the bag.
- Insert the top of the bag into the vacuum sealer and press the vac seal button. The machine will suck all the air out of the bag and be firmly sealed.
- Inspect the vacuum sealed bag and ensure all the seams are properly sealed.
- After every successful sealing, wipe the sealer using a cloth to ensure cleanliness.
- Set aside the finished product and give it the proper label.
Signs That Your Vacuum Sealed Meat is Bad
How can you tell if vacuum-sealed meat is bad and unfit for consumption? As mentioned earlier, vacuum-sealed meat doesn’t last forever, even if inside the freezer. Here are the telltale signs:
Tangy Sulfur Smell
As you open the vacuum-sealed meat, you notice an unusual odor coming out of the bag. The smell can mean two things: the meat is okay or spoiled.
Vacuum sealing removes oxygen from the bag, and the natural juices in the meat may start to change in color and develop a weird smell. If you have stored the vacuum-sealed bags correctly and opened them within their use date, the meat is unlikely to be spoiled.
Meanwhile, a horrid, sulfur-type smell is a cause for concern. Check the bag if it’s properly sealed. If you notice leaking juices and the meat fits loosely inside the bag, there’s a good chance it’s been spoiled.
The lack of oxygen inside the bag can cause the meat to change color, usually into a darker shade of brown. Again, this is perfectly normal, but it’s always best to do a rinse test.
Take the meat out of the bag, rinse it with running water, and pat it dry. Allow it to stand for about 30 minutes, and you should see the meat return to its natural reddish color if unspoiled.
If after 30 minutes of airing time and the meat still has a gray or dark brown color, it’s likely spoiled and should be discarded.
Sticky or Slimy Texture
Vacuum sealed meat has a natural moist texture which is normal. In general, fresh and edible meat feels tender and has good elasticity. Conversely, when you remove the meat and feel a sticky or slimy texture, it might be a sign of spoilage.
At this point, you can still try the rinse and air method for good measure. However, after 30 minutes of resting and the meat still looks discolored and has a rancid odor, you should discard it since it’s likely spoiled.
Safety is Always First
Hopefully, I’ve answered the frequently asked question: “How long does vacuum sealed meat last in the freezer?” Vacuum sealing is a wonderful way to preserve your meats and other food items. However, as you can see from this guide, it will not last forever.
Prioritize safety, from food handling to deciding if your vacuum-sealed meat is spoiled or not. It’s not worth the risk of getting food poisoning for a small piece of meat, so always err on the side of caution.