Jun 25, 2023

Here's How Long Your Homemade Frozen Meatballs Will Last

One of the best ways to reduce the midweek stress of trying to decide what to cook for dinner is meal prepping. But what if you're preparing something like meatballs and make a few too many? Rather than waste them, you can pop them in the freezer, but keep in mind that they'll only last for about two months before their taste and texture starts to change.

Frozen food will pretty much never expire. While you can eat something a year after you freeze it, you shouldn't expect it to taste exactly the same. That's because flavor and texture are altered the longer the food sits untouched, and a little thing called freezer burn can definitely leave your food with an off taste. Whether you're freezing cooked or raw meatballs, that two-month shelf life remains the same, and keeping those meatballs in their best shape for that long requires an understanding of how to most effectively freeze them in the first place.

The first question to address is whether you're freezing homemade meatballs that are fully cooked or uncooked. From there, you'll know how to store them. If you have already cooked the meatballs, wait for them to cool to room temperature, then allow them to freeze on a baking sheet for a few hours before transferring them to a freezer bag. This will ensure the meatballs won't stick together. The one caveat here is if your meatballs are in sauce; in that case, just add of the contents to a freezer bag and freeze them.

Uncooked meatballs should follow the same baking sheet technique; this is especially important if the meatballs are raw because you risk them sticking together if you pop room temperature meatballs into a freezer bag. Once the meatballs have had a chance to freeze for up to four hours on the baking sheet, place them in the freezer bag. From there, consume them within two months.

While the meatballs will remain high-quality for up to two months, you aren't necessarily risking food poisoning if you consume the meat after the two-month mark. According to the USDA, bacteria become inactive at 0 degrees, so the meat won't harm you if you wait longer to eat it. Pro tip: If you don't think you'll get to those meatballs within two months, it's best to freeze them raw. That's because there is more moisture in raw meat, which helps it retain its quality longer than cooked meat.

The flavor and texture deteriorate the longer food is frozen — especially if it gets freezer burn. Freezer burn occurs when air makes contact with your food, which is why placing it in a freezer bag or airtight container is so essential to the process. For extra protection, wrap the meatballs in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing them in the container or bag so that you can defrost with confidence.