Vacuum sealed pakaging, how to use it.

Great, now you have a freezer full of professionally packaged meats, but how to go about using them?

First up, let's take a closer look at what we actually have. A vacuum sealed package is not merely one where air has been sucked out such as with a home you use product, or when you compress a zip-lock package. The sealing process removes all air, and creates a vacuum. This not only removes air that can damage food, but makes the freezing and thawing process much quicker. Since the harsh vacuum environment requires a much stronger bag, your food is in a much more stable environment and can therefore be kept in your freezer for a complete year. (I've actually had bags sit in my freezer for up to three years and they're fine when I open them, but recommendations are one year.) The airtight bags are therefore much less likely to develop freezer burn and will be perfectly fresh when you decide to open them.

Storage:

These are superior quality plastic bags, but nevertheless they are not indestructible. Extra care mst be taken when handling the frozen plastic. Place all the like packages in an orderly method in your freezer. Only authorize one person to be able to fetch packs from the freezer, this will avoid the bags being mussed about, which eventually leads to the bags being mishandled, and possibly damaged. Cuts containing bones are the most likely to become unsealed. If a bag does become unsealed (it will have air in it just like a regular package meat bag) fear not, it is still good, just try to use it as soon as possible.

Tangent #2... Is fresh really fresh?

Ever look at the supermarket flyers you receive each week in your friendly neighbourhood "Publi-sac"? Of course you do! They all have the same bargains on the first page...ground beef! Hmm $1,99 wow! great price...hmm are you sure? Of course you are, the store is advertising Canada #1 meat..it must be fresh Canadian, top quality meat. I don't think so. Read the fine print. They almost always say "from fresh or frozen meat cuts". I have personally known several workers who made supermarket groud beef and none of them have ever eaten a single spoonful of meat from the shop they worked in...please refrain from buying this stuff...by the way, Canada #1 only means that the meat you're going to buy comes from a plant that Ag-Canada has approved, but it could be in Canada, the US, New Zealand, etc...it's the same with fruit, ever wonder where "Canada Fancy" fresh fruits come from in February??? Very few provinces have obligatory origin-labelling regulations, so you basically have no idea where the meat is from, never mind if it was already frozen or not...

When I wanted to find out just how the retail meat business worked, I spent several months working at my friends' meat shop at Montreal's Atwater Market. Quite an experience! I would arrive like everybody else at around 7 am just when the delivery trucks began unloading. One day a delivery guy arrived with a whole pallet of "New Zealand frozen boneless beef" and just dropped it off in front of the counter two shops down the aisle. When I stepped out for an early lunch, that pallet was still thawing out at room temperature right in the middle of the aisleway! I also noted that during the summer months, most of the doors are open throughout the market, so when it's 30 plus degrees out, it's almost that hot where butchers are preparing their products. Hmmm, Canadian regulations want all fresh meat to be processed at a maximun temperature of 50 F... What about all the fantastic individual customer service you generally get at these shops? That's nice, but why do they always seem to go into the meat locker and pull out a new piece? What's wrong with all the meats already in the counter?? What about the piece of meat they were working on before you called on them? Is it still just sitting there getting hot and collecting bacteria while you get served? - who will have the misfortune of buying that? Check out tomorrow's big savings specials. Needless to say, I saw a lot of really weird stuff go on at these shops.

Frozen stuff

While at the market, the head butcher would sort through his counter at the end of each day. Stuff that would no longer be any good was tossed, and some that would be so-so was often frozen. Yet nobody ever wanted the frozen stuff at these shops, because they knew it was frozen when it was just about ready to walk out of the counter by itself! Ever take meat home from the butcher and decide to freeze it yourself? Why is it that when you thaw it out it's usually nothing more that a smelly mass of weird colored yukk??? Now why is Gereli frozen meat good, if no other frozen meat has worked for you in the past???

Simple! Gereli meats are fresher when you thaw them than the fresh meats in your butchers' counters.
Big statement? I hope so, and I put my name behind it.

Ok, here's what you need to properly conserve meat:

Simple? Of course it is.
My meats are all processed in a continually government inspected facility (meaning there are full time government inspectors on site almost all the time). All cutting and wrapping is done at 50 F or below and all workers wear hair neats and proper smocks — ALL THE TIME! Only heavy-duty vacuum seal bags are used and once the bags are closed they are sent to the freezer on freeze-trays where they are stacked no more than 8" high. Complete freezing takes place in about six hours in a jumbo super-freezer. These packages are brought to your home frozen solid, so when you put them in your freezer, they will not stick together and get damaged.

Now open one, what you have is fresh meat! The product has never been exposed to daylight, or temperatures above 50F!! I'm sure you can count on the fingers of one hand how many stores could boast the same. They receive meats that have been through shipping, distribution, delivery and who knows what. Were all the refrigerators at proper temps? Did all the shipping staff move the pallets efficiently? Were all the trucks properly refrigerated? Did anybody leave the door open will on a smoke break? There are simply too many questions...I agree that the food-service industry has done a good job at keeping our food supply safe, but why take a chance?

Is your freezer a freezer?

Am I asking too many questions? Ok, everybody knows that water freezes at 32 F, right? Simple enough, so the freezer part of your refrigerator must stay below that, right??? Wrong! Ever wonder why you don't have to thaw out the freezer anymore like your grandmother used to??? Today's fridge-top (or now sometimes, bottom) freezers are "frost-free"!!! wow, well, what do you expect, they put a man on the moon, right? So how has modern refrigeration technology managed to do this? These apliances have a "defrost" cycle. The ambient inside temperature rises a couple degrees above freezing, this causes all ice build-up on the walls to melt and run into the drip-pan below your fridge. Since this cycle is only every couple days, the water has plenty of time to evaporate before the pan overflows! The problem here is that your food is also freezing and thawing, plus the process of condensation arrives, so more and more water molecules accumulate and land on your food...then freeze again. This is why your ice cubes, ice cream, frozen veggies etc all get frost build up and freezer burn...yukkk. Fortunately, a chest freezer remains near 0 F, this is an adequate temperature to eliminate most food-harming bacteria. Since you don't open the door five times a day like your fridge-top freezer, there is not much ice build-up. Just remember to thaw it out completely if there is substantial ice built-up around the walls as your appliance will lose efficiency in this case. So, for more than very short periods (1-15 days) keep the meat out of the fridge-top.

Back to "how to"

Now, the moment we've all been waiting for...eating! So you decide to have some delicious beef, good idea! All you have to do is ask yourself a couple ofquick questions: when do I want to eat, and for how many meals? The when part detemines when you need to take the package out of the freezer, and the how many part is how much!

For a 3-4 lbs or more roast, try to have a good 6-8 hrs to thaw out the piece properly. You will then be able to work it comfortably and add your favorite spiced right into the meat. In a pinch, a couple of hours will do, but adjust cooking time accordingly as you will have workable meat, but it won't be 100% thawed. With vacuum seal bags, the thawing process is faster than a regular bag, or your average ordinary paper butcher wrap. One important detail...DON'T OPEN THE BAG!!!! That's right, keeping the air out during the thawing process helps it go much faster. If you are going to B-B-Q steaks, simply place them in cold water (bag intact, remember!) for 30-45 minutes and they may not be 100% thawed, but you're ready to cook! Smaller packs such as minute steaks, tournedos, sandwich steaks and the like are usually thawed enough in about 15 minutes to be ready for cooking!

What if you took a bag from the freezer, but did not open it that day, and changed your mind? Fear not, sealed vacuum pack bags are ok in the fridge for 5-7 days (I've personally eaten ground beef after being in the fridge for 2 weeks) just make sure the seal is intact. The seal being intact means that the bags is still shrink-clung to the meat, and no air is inside. If the seal does fail, it's ok, but you're down to a 2-3 day regular package.

Remember a couple things:

Blood is blue! What??? Trust me, turn your wrist over and look at your veins...hmm it is blue!!! Why? Only when your blood contains oxygen does it go red, the more oxygen, the more redness. This is the same for meats, as there are still blood particles inside. Therefore do not go mad if your meat changes colour once it has been removed from its airless vacuum-packed environment. Of course, a bright red piece of beef generally denotes freshness as the longer the meat is exposed to air, the more oxygen it takes on, and slowly changes to flat, dark red. --maybe you can steal this page---http://www.beefinfo.org/colour.cfm there is tons of stuff you can steal from this site, such as cooking and nutrition info!

Until next time Richard.