Leftover cooked beef, pork or chicken doesn't have to languish in the refrigerator, uneaten. You can freeze it for several months so it's ready and already cooked when you need it. The timer on safe storage resets when you cook the meat, so cooking and freezing and can add up to three months to the safe storage life of most types of meat.
Place the meat, loosely covered with plastic wrap or in a lidded container, in the refrigerator within two hours of removing it from the oven. Cool it to 40 degrees Fahrenheit before freezing.
Wrap the meat tightly in plastic freezer wrap. Alternatively, place small portions of cooked meat in an airtight container that is safe for freezer storage. Any uncovered portion of the meat in the freezer makes it susceptible to drying out and freezer burn.
Place the wrapped meat in a freezer storage bag with a zip closure. Push out the excess air and seal the bag closed. If the portion of meat is too large for a freezer bag, wrap it in a second layer of plastic wrap. Label the wrap or container with the contents and date frozen.
Place the meat in a 0 F freezer and store it for up to three months. Place the meat near the rear of the freezer to protect it from temperature fluctuations that occur in the freezer when you open and close the door.
Remove the meat 24 to 48 hours before you plan to use it and defrost it in the refrigerator. If you must defrost it quickly, place it in a sink filled with cold water, and change out the water every 30 minutes until the meat is completely thawed. Do not defrost meat at room temperature. Cooked meat is more prone to drying out or freezer burn because it has already lost some moisture during the cooking process. Freezing the meat in a sauce or gravy can help keep it moist.
Wash your hands, cutting boards and utensils before and after handling the cooked meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.