Corned beef is a salt-cured meat that’s commonly made from beef brisket. It gets its signature pinkish-red color and robust flavor from the curing process, where the meat is soaked in a saltwater brine solution.
While fresh corned beef only lasts 3-5 days in the fridge, many people wonder if it’s possible to extend its shelf life by freezing it.
Below we’ll explore everything you need to know about freezing corned beef, including how to freeze it properly and how long it lasts in the freezer.
Should You Freeze Corned Beef?
Freezing is an effective way to preserve corned beef for several months. This allows you to buy corned beef in bulk when it’s on sale or stock up for holidays and special occasions.
Here are some key benefits to freezing corned beef:
- Extends shelf life 3-6 months beyond refrigerator date
- Allows you to meal prep or cook in advance for busy schedules
- Lets you buy corned beef in bulk when it’s cheaper
- Preserves quality and texture better than canning
- Provides longer storage than curing again
As long as you freeze corned beef properly and don’t keep it frozen forever, freezing poses no risks or downsides to the quality or safety of corned beef.
How to Freeze Corned Beef
Follow these simple steps for freezing corned beef:
1. Prepare the Corned Beef
- Start with fully cooked, refrigerated corned beef. Do not freeze raw corned beef before cooking.
- Allow corned beef to completely cool after cooking, about 2 hours.
- Cut the corned beef into portion sizes you plan to use. Slice thinly across the grain or chop into cubes.
2. Package the Portions
- Place slices or cubes of corned beef into freezer bags, freezer-safe plastic wrap, or airtight containers.
- Remove as much air as possible before sealing.
- Label bags with contents and freeze-by date (3-6 months from freezing date).
3. Freeze Properly
- Freeze corned beef immediately after packaging, within 2 hours of cooking.
- Use freezer bags or containers to prevent freezer burn.
- Lay packages flat in a single layer to freeze quickly.
- Once solidly frozen, packages can be stacked or stored upright.
- Freeze at 0°F or below.
How Long Does Corned Beef Last in the Freezer?
Frozen properly, corned beef will last for 3 to 6 months in the freezer before losing quality.
Follow these guidelines for freezer storage times:
- Raw corned beef (uncooked) = Do not freeze raw
- Cooked corned beef slices = 3 to 4 months
- Cooked corned beef chunks = 4 to 6 months
The shelf life depends on the preparation method, packaging, and freezer temperature. Well-wrapped corned beef frozen at 0°F may last for the full 6 months before drying out or becoming rancid.
Signs your frozen corned beef may be past its prime:
- Freezer burn or dry, flaky texture
- Dull or faded color
- Off odors, sour smell, or very salty taste
How to Thaw Frozen Corned Beef
Meat must be thawed safely to prevent bacterial growth.
Here are a few methods:
- Safest method, avoids bacteria
- Keep frozen corned beef sealed and place on a plate to catch drips
- Thaw overnight in the fridge for use the next day
- Allow 24 hours for a full package
Cold Water Thawing
- Faster than fridge thawing
- Keep corned beef sealed and submerge in cold water
- Change water every 30 minutes until thawed
- Cook immediately after thawing
- Very fast method
- Unwrap corned beef and place on a microwave-safe plate
- Microwave at 50% power, checking often
- Cook immediately; microwaving can start cooking meat
Once thawed, corned beef should be used within 1-2 days and never refrozen for food safety. Reheating fully until steaming hot before serving.
How to Use Frozen Corned Beef
Frozen corned beef can be swapped into any recipe calling for fresh corned beef.
Here are some of the most popular ways to use it:
- Thaw and slice for sandwiches like corned beef on rye.
- Dice and add to omelets, frittatas, and hash.
- Chop and use in hearty casseroles or corned beef hash.
- Shred and fold into pasta dishes, pizza, or salads.
- Cube corned beef for simmering in soups or stews.
- Cook from frozen in slow cooker recipes like corned beef and cabbage.
Get creative with leftover frozen corned beef! The salty, savory flavor pairs well with potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, and more.
Corned Beef Freezer Meal Ideas
Make ahead freezer meals to simplify cooking with frozen corned beef:
- Breakfast Burritos – Thaw corned beef, dice potatoes, sauté with eggs, cheese, and salsa. Wrap in tortillas and freeze.
- Corned Beef Shepherd’s Pie – Prepare mashed potato topping. Assemble pie filling with corned beef, peas, and carrots in a casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes and freeze.
- Cabbage Rolls – Thaw corned beef and mix with cooked rice and seasoning. Roll in cabbage leaves and place in a casserole dish with tomato sauce. Cover and freeze.
- Reuben Casserole – Combine corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. Put in a baking dish and freeze.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can I keep corned beef in the fridge before freezing?
Cook fresh corned beef, let cool completely, and freeze within 1-2 days for best quality. Don’t freeze raw corned beef.
Can I freeze cooked corned beef in the packaging from the store?
No, rewrap in airtight freezer bags or containers to prevent freezer burn. Remove as much air as possible before sealing.
What’s the best way to thaw frozen corned beef?
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. This is safest for food safety. Submerge in cold water if faster thawing is needed.
Can I refreeze thawed corned beef?
No, thawed corned beef should not be refrozen for safety reasons. Cook within 1-2 days.
Is frozen corned beef safe to eat if freezer burned?
Freezer burned corned beef is still safe to eat, but the texture will be negatively affected. Trim off any dried out portions after thawing.
Can I cook frozen corned beef directly without thawing?
Yes, frozen corned beef can be cooked directly from frozen. Just allow 50% more cooking time. Slow cooker recipes work well too.
How do I know when frozen corned beef has gone bad?
Signs of spoiled frozen corned beef include off odors, sour smell, very dry or crunchy texture, or dull, faded appearance. When in doubt, throw it out.
What’s the shelf life of cooked corned beef in the fridge?
Cooked corned beef lasts 3-5 days refrigerated. Freeze any leftovers not eaten within this timeframe for longer storage.
Can I can corned beef after cooking it?
Canning cooked corned beef is not recommended for safety reasons due to the risk of botulism. Freezing is the best way to preserve cooked corned beef.
Key Takeaways on Freezing Corned Beef
- Freezing extends shelf life of cooked corned beef 3-6 months.
- Allow to fully cool before slicing and freezing in airtight packages.
- Thaw safely in fridge, cold water, or microwave before using.
- Once thawed, use within 1-2 days and do not refreeze.
- Frozen corned beef substitutes well in any recipe calling for fresh.
- With proper handling, freezing maintains the quality and taste.
So go ahead and stock up on corned beef when it’s on sale. Just follow the guidelines above for freezing, thawing, and cooking this delicious salt-cured meat. Enjoy your corned beef year-round with the convenience of your freezer.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.