We’ve all been there – you’ve been running late all day, barely keeping it together, and all you want is a quick and easy meal so you can finally get ahead of the curve.
But, then, you remember, you’ve still got some frozen meatballs in the freezer. They’ve been there for a while, but people say frozen food lasts forever.
However, when you take the meatballs out to defrost them, they look a little weird. So how do you know if your frozen meatballs are expired?
Cooked meatballs can be stored safely in the freezer for at least 2 to 3 months, while raw frozen meatballs will generally last for at least 3 to 4 months. However, if stored correctly, they can be kept frozen for around 6 to 12 months.
Continue reading if you want to know how to best store your delicious meatballs in the fridge or freezer and how to tell if they have gone bad.
How Long Can You Keep Meatballs in the Freezer?
The recommended freezer time frame for already-cooked frozen meatballs is 2 to 3 months and 3 to 4 months for raw frozen meatballs.
This will ensure that your frozen meatballs keep their quality, texture, and flavor.
However, if you store them correctly and ensure they are kept in an air-tight container, they may be frozen between 6 to 12 months and still keep most of their quality, texture, and flavor.
If you have kept them in the freezer for more than 12 months, you should check for freezer burn or any sign of spoilage.
PRO TIP: You will find helpful tips and facts on freezer-burnt or possibly spoiled meatballs further down in the article. So make sure to keep reading!
Freezing keeps most meats safe almost indefinitely, so storage time will depend entirely on how your meatballs have been packaged and kept in the freezer.
It is perfectly fine and safe to freeze meatballs in their original packaging.
However, once opened, yous should put them in an air-tight freezer bag.
PRO TIP: I prefer reusable Ziploc bags. They are super practical, easy to use, and keep the meat fresh and free of freezer burn.
How Long Do Frozen Meatballs Last in the Fridge?
If you have the time, putting your frozen meatballs into the fridge is the safest way to defrost them (other than immediately thawing them in the microwave and cooking them).
But it would be best if you didn’t let them sit in the fridge for too long before you cook them.
So, once they’ve thawed, it’s best to cook them as soon as possible before bacteria start growing on the food.
Generally speaking, anywhere from 12 – 24 hours in the fridge should be enough time to thaw frozen meatballs.
So put them in the fridge before bedtime, and you’ll have dinner ready for the next day!
PRO TIP: Keep the meatballs at a constant temperature of about 40F (4.5C). This temperature ensures a slow and safe defrosting in the fridge!
How Long Can Frozen Meatballs Sit Out?
It’s best not to defrost your meatballs by leaving them on the kitchen counter. The outside of the meatballs may get warm and grow bacteria, while the inside remains frozen.
But if you do, you should cook them immediately after thawing!
Also, this is best done in a moderate-temperature environment. That means avoiding direct sunlight or room temperatures of more than 90F (32C).
REMEMBER THE 90-RULE: Defrost for a maximum of 2 hours in room temperatures below 90F and a maximum of 1 hour in temperatures above 90F!
Additionally, once you’ve defrosted any food, you should never place it back into the refrigerator.
And avoid refreezing foods – it won’t kill the bacteria and will only preserve the yucky germs for the next time you get the food out. Double-frozen bacteria meatballs, no thanks!
How Can You Tell if Frozen Meatballs Have Gone Bad?
While they can be kept safely in the freezer for a long time, meatballs can still get spoiled. Maybe they were already bad when you froze them. Or perhaps, they have been thawing for too long and have turned.
You can do a few things to help determine whether your meatballs have gone bad and if you should toss them.
- Smell your meatballs. If they smell rancid, sour, or just generally off once they’ve thawed, do not eat them!
- Check their texture. If your meatballs feel slimy or mushy, they are probably spoiled and infected with bacteria. Toss them immediately!
- Check their color. If there have turned green, grey, or black or have spots or patches of the same colors, they have most likely started to rot. Throw them away!
- Taste them. If you can’t detect any of the above signs but still think they might have gone bad, take a small bite and taste the meatballs. If they have a sour, bitter, rancid, or otherwise off taste, spit out the piece and do not consume them!
Some people also wonder if freezer burn is a sign of spoilage.
Let’s jump over to the article’s next section and shed some light on this!
Are Freezer-Burnt Meatballs Okay to Eat?
They might look a little gross and won’t be à la carte restaurant quality, but freezer-burnt meatballs are generally safe to eat.
If your meatballs are freezer burnt, they will most likely be covered in gray-looking spots and have a somewhat dry texture when you eat them.
Most of the time, people throw freezer-burnt food away. But the truth is, you really don’t have to!
Eating freezer-burnt food is still perfectly fine, even if it doesn’t taste the best.
So, your meatballs might have lost some flavor and gained a funny texture, but as long as they don’t smell or taste off, eating them is not a problem.
But remember the golden rule, if they were spoiled when you froze them, they’ll still be spoiled when you thaw them – whether they’re freezer-burnt or not!
Can Frozen Meatballs Make You Sick?
Eating spoiled meatballs can lead to severe illnesses and should be avoided at all costs.
Food poisoning is the most common disease you can get from eating undercooked or spoiled meat.
Symptoms usually start 1 to 8 days after consuming the food and can include:
- Stomach pain or cramps
PRO TIP: If you are experiencing any severe or life-threatening symptoms, contact a doctor or hospital immediately!
The undercooking part can be especially risky regarding homemade meatballs, so always cook them thoroughly before eating or freezing them!
Luckily, you won’t have that problem with store-bought frozen meatballs, as they are usually fully cooked.
But if you indeed did consume undercooked meat, you could develop a nasty parasitic food-borne disease called trichinosis.
Undercooked meat products can get infested with the larvae of a roundworm called Trichinella.
Early symptoms range from very mild to extremely severe and usually start a few days after the parasites enter your body. They can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in your abdomen
Later symptoms, which can start as late as two weeks after the initial infection, can include:
- Muscle soreness
- Eye swelling
- Extreme tiredness
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Rash or itchy skin
Please, always check your meatballs before preparing and consuming them! And if they seem bad or off, just toss them! It’s not worth risking your precious health!
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