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Discussion in 'Meat Selection and Processing' started by stickyfingers, Jun 30, 2010.
Is there a taste difference between frozen meat and "not previously frozen" meet?
If it isn't frozen properly, yes. There will always be a difference in texture due to damage from the ice crystals.
Like the above said if it was frozen properly or frozen for a long period of time, freezer burn, otherwise after it is cooked I doubt you will tell the difference. I have cooked butts that were still cryovaced that I found on the bottom of my freezer that had been in there for about 15 months and after cooking and pulling they were just as good as fresh ones.
Let me re phrase my question. Meat from a grocery store, is there a difference between never frozen and previously frozen as taste is concerned. (tough)
Again, it depends on how it was frozen and stored while frozen.
Not to start a big controversy, but most of the meat that is consumed in the US is "previously frozen" Unless you see it running around a farm yard, most likely it has been quick frozen at some point along its journey to the point of purchase.
There are a few butchers around here that will chime in if I am incorrect. This is something that I learned as I was discovering how much beef we actually import into this county, ( I always thought we exported more).
I'm not a butcher but I believe you are correct. My assumption is that the OP means meat that is packaged then frozen.
I get all of my meat straight from the farm (with a quick stop at the butcher). I can tell a difference between meat from a market versus what I eat every day. However, that could be the diet of the animal, the aging, or the handling. The softer the flesh the more noticeable it will be. It is very easy to tell fresh fish apart from previously frozen.
Not to dilute this argument even further but, the quality of the cut is much more important to the quality of the finished product than whether or not it has been frozen (freezing process and length of freeze aside). First off, many would agree that a meat such as salmon is better if it has been flash frozen rather than fresh. This has more to do with the properties of the meat and the process from which it is extracted and transported. Pork and Beef are going to be a different story in that their mode of preservation and trasportation are going to be different, as well as the quality grades of the product.
So, to try to answer your question. In most cases, the difference of a butt or packer that was fresh (though it rarely is at any chain) from that of a frozen one is negligable. If its between a whole chicken and a pack of freezer breasts from Tyson, go whole, but if its between a fresh butt vs a cryo frozen one at half the cost, go frozen.
Fill a quart container full of water and freeze it solid. What will happen? Water turning into ice expands. It will rupture the container if there is no 'give' to it.
The same happens inside a cell in a piece of meat. When frozen, the moisture inside the cell expands and will rupture the cell wall. When unthawed, that moisture will escape through the rupture and becomes 'juice' (purge is the correct term) in the bottom of the COV or pan or on the counter, leaking out. We all know to put towels under a product we're thawing out to capture this runoff. But, this purge is drawing the natural flavor, moistness and juiciness of that piece of meat out of it. This is what freezing does to meat.
Now, there are different levels of freezing. There's hard freezing at below zero, freezing to complete hardness all the way through, maximum expansion. This does the most damage. A good example of this and what effect it has is turkeys. These are killed and hard frozen sometimes years before going to market; they have an approximate 3 yr shelf life. You've see blow-out sales prior to holidays for 29¢ / lb birds; they're at the end of their shelf life and have to be sold or thrown out. Now are they totally shot? No, not at all. But they will be dry if cooked too long as what moisture is left after thawing in each cell will evaporate quickly. These should be cooked to no more than 155-160° maximum, not the recommended 180° on the package (anything over 135° you've killed any bacteria unless you've unthawed improperly, like on the counter until the bird is room temp - if so, throw it out!).
Then there's 'hard chill' freezing. This is just to 32° - point of freezing. This technically freezes the outer cells but to the least level of damage and interal cells can be at slightly higher temp but still in 'suspended animation' where bacteria will not grow. Chicken is a good example. Chicken cut up and pre-packaged in a packing plant (like Tyson, Pilgrim, etc.) is passed through a nitrogen 'quick chill' cooling process that puts a 'hard chill' on the product for transporting. Held in reefers at 32° it arrives across the country in a barely hard state but bacteria growth has been minimal to none. You can press on it and it will give even though it is hard, so it has done almost no damage to the flesh. Laying it out in the meatcase in the morning at 38° to 40°, a quick sheen of frost shows then the packages are new and fresh and ready to sell as if the 4 day trip to the distributor and 2 day hold time until redistributed had never happened, the shelf life stamped on the package well ahead of that day's date to insure freshness. This key procedure is what is allowing central meat processing to take over the meatcutting industry and taking individual meatcutters out of every Walmart in the country. It's applied to beef, pork and chicken and offals, etc. - hard chilling for transport and distribution storage until delivered to the end destination.
In the case of pork, almost all is frozen and held at under 5° for 20 days (or -4° for 3 days), this is 'certified' pork. Freezing in this manner does one thing well. It kills the trichinosis worm that is most likely to be in pork. However, many species of trichnae are resistant to freezing and invade game animals so freezing will not kill those, only cooking will. Here's a chart on cooking times and temps minimum from Wikipedia
Larvae may be inactivated by the heating, freezing (caution), or irradiation of raw meat. Freezing may only be effective for T. spiralis, since some other species, such as T. nativa, are freeze resistant and can survive long-term freezing. 
Unsafe and unreliable cooking of meat includes the use of microwave ovens, curing, drying, and smoking, as these methods are difficult to standardize and control. 
Cooking meat products to an internal temperature of 165 °F (74 °C) for a minimum of 15 seconds.
Cooking pork to a minimum uniform internal temperature per USDA Title 9 section 318.10 Table below. It is prudent to use a margin of error to allow for variation in internal temperature and error in the thermometer.
°F°CMinimum Time1204921 hours12250.09.5 hours12451.14.5hours12652.22 hours12853.41 hours13054.530 minutes13255.615 minutes13456.76 minutes13657.83 minutes13858.92 minutes14060.01 minute14261.11 minute14462.2Instant
Freezing pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5 °F (−15 °C) or three days at −4 °F (−20 °C) kills larval worms.
Cooking wild game meat thoroughly. Freezing wild game meats, unlike freezing pork products, even for long periods of time, may not effectively kill all worms. This is because the species of trichinella that typically infects wild game is more resistant to freezing than the species that infects pigs.
So, freezing does denegrate the meat vs. fresh, but to what extent depends on the type of freezing, the length, to what depth, and it is beneficial in the case of pork or transportation.
And yet another example of why Pops is a trusted authority. Thanks Pops! Great info...sounds like this needs to be a wiki article.
WoW!! The man is a wiki all himself!!! Awesome info Pops! When I grow up I want to be like Pops! Hey can you answer the old question if its OK to re freeze meat. I get this question all the time from customers. I just want to make sure I am passing on the right info.
CUClimber, I have never heard anybody say that flash-frozen salmon is better than fresh. I think every chef and fish monger would disagree with that.
Nice post Pops. But i have a question. I live in rural Ohio, and get my pork from a local independant butcher. Do you think this has been frozen? Or is it fresh? I just always assumed it was fresh, but maybe not. When i get butts from him they come in a simple plastic bag and there is some blood in it, i guess this doesnt mean anything. I just assumed it had been recently cut off of the animal. Picking up 2 butts today...guess i can ask him.
Also, you list smoking as an unsafe/unreliable cooking process. Is this cold smoking, or hot smoking? I thought if you paid atttention to the 140 in 4 rule you were good to go. Is that still a correct assumption? You got me all nervous for my July 4 smoke!
I have had fresh (cooked) salmon, and i have had frozen (cooked) salmon. I never paid attention to taste difference though...i like them all...but my favorite is Sashimi (raw but having been frozen) salmon!
Meat (pre-frozen or fresh) is delicious.
I say let the snobs gripe if they want.
Great post Pops! Very informative, thank-you.
That is alot of info for this country boy to digest...I'll stick just meat
Uh...I was going to say what Pops said....Just kidding! Pops you are my idol! Nice post
Thanks Pops. I don't always like what you have to tell us, but it is a privilege to have you here to give us the straight dope! And do we ever miss those knowledgeable folks at the meat counter!
Good luck and good smoking!
That answers my .."funny look" I give the meat dept folks at Publix when I buy chicken that is labeled "never frozen".
It always seems like it is a tad stiff and very cold.
Have a great day!!