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This cold food storage guide shows how long you can freeze common foods

This cold food storage guide shows how long you can freeze common foods
Posted at 8:04 AM, Apr 24, 2024

How many times have you pulled some chicken (or a pie or a casserole) out of the deep freezer only to end up worrying that you shouldn’t eat it because of how long it’s been in there?

Well, second-guess yourself no more — we’ve created a handy guide using data from FoodSafety.gov, a resource run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that spells out exactly how long you can safely keep various foods in the refrigerator and freezer.

Bookmark this article or print out the cheat sheet below and stick it on your fridge so you’ll always know just how long you can hold on to those bulk pork chops you got from Costco (up to a year, by the way).

Freezer Storage Times Vary By Food Type

There’s no universal advice for freezing foods, as the guidelines are based on the type of food product and portion size. Some of the suggested freezer storage times may surprise you. A baked, frosted cake, for example, should be stored for just one month. No wonder that frozen slice of wedding cake tastes pretty bad when you pull it out and eat it on your one-year anniversary!

MORE: 5 fruits you shouldn’t refrigerate

You may also be surprised to hear that some foods can be frozen at all. Eggs, for example. While some sources say you can keep them for up to a year, FoodSafety.gov says that egg whites can be frozen for a year but advises against freezing raw eggs whole in the shell. Instead, beat the yolk and whites together and freeze the mixture for up to a year. Separated egg yolks do not freeze well and neither do hard-boiled eggs, so best to avoid freezing those.

Meanwhile, recommended freezing times for meat and fish seem to vary widely depending on the type of product. While you can freeze lean fish, like cod, halibut and pollock, for up to eight months, it’s recommended that you keep fatty fish, like salmon, tuna and catfish, in the freezer for just three months at most. And while steaks or pork roasts may be frozen safely for up to a year, ground meat like turkey or beef is best kept frozen for just four months.

The chart’s shellfish section has the widest range of recommended freezing times, however. While shucked clams, mussels, oysters and scallops can be frozen for up to four months — ditto for crab and lobster meat — crayfish, shrimp and squid can be frozen for a whopping 18 months, according to FoodSafety.gov. That’s the longest window of any foods listed on the chart.

Don’t forget to stick a label on food before you freeze it so you know exactly how long it’s been in there. We like these options from Amazon to get you started: 

chalkboard food storage labels

$6.99 (was $7.99) at Amazon

dissolvable food storage labels

$12.99 (was $14.99) at Amazon

colorful food storage labels

$5.99 at Amazon

Additional Tips For Smart Food Storage

  • Food should always be frozen at the peak of its ripeness/freshness.
  • Some types of food do not freeze well, including raw eggs in their shells or potatoes.
  • Liquids expand in cold temperatures, so it’s important to leave extra room in the container when freezing them.

Here’s to having more confidence the next time you pull something out of the freezer!

MORE: 15 of the healthiest frozen meals you can find in the freezer aisle


This cold food storage guide shows how long you can freeze common foods originally appeared on Simplemost.com