Storing meat can be tricky. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up throwing out entire chicken breasts (bye bye, $$) or worse, getting sick.

In the freezer:
Meats can stay in the freezer for up to a year in airtight containers. An easy-to-use option is a box of gallon-size bags marked “freezer” that are thicker than regular plastic bags.

One of the most important things about storing and defrosting meat is being aware of the “danger zone.” Between 40°F and 104°F dangerous bacteria can grow, so always unpack meat as soon as you’re home from the store and never defrost it on the counter.

The safest defrosting method is to put the frozen meat in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it. If you didn’t plan ahead, put your frozen meat on a plate and use your microwave’s  “defrost” setting. Just specify the weight and the microwave will adjust heat and time accordingly. If you don’t have that setting, power the microwave to mid-power and microwave in one-minute increments until the meat defrosts.

In the ‘fridge:
In the refrigerator, meat can keep for two to three days. Keep it covered to prevent bacteria transfer.

Didn’t eat or freeze your meat within the recommended time period? It might not be too late—check out this guide on judging if meat is okay to eat.