I’m often asked how to use large amounts of meat at once.
A few years ago, a friend’s husband got excited at Costco and bought a large piece of meat for an undetermined use. When he got it home, his wife instantly said, “We need to divide that up and freeze it, because we can’t just use the whole thing at once.” She was right, after all. She was a vegetarian and they didn’t have kids or anything, so there was no way he’d be able to eat 10 pounds of meat on his own.
But he forgot and chucked the whole thing into the deep freeze, and I got a call a couple of weeks later from a frantic woman.
“Lia, do you know how do you use large amounts of meat all at once? My husband froze 10 pounds of pork whole, so I can’t portion it and re-freeze it.”
She was right again. Re-freezing raw meat is a bad idea.
So we had to get creative! And now I present to you: how to use large amounts of meat in ways that won’t cause food waste!
1. Make a large amount of sausage
Homemade sausage is amazing, and you can pre-cook it and re-freeze leftovers if need be. Just pop the frozen sausages out and warm them in a frying pan with a little oil, or grill them on the BBQ for an amazing flavour boost!
This is one of the best ways to use large amounts of meat, because it’s a process that takes time and you can batch it, then reap the rewards for months after!
When making sausage, keep in mind that using lean meats doesn’t usually work very well. Most recipes will call for added fat because otherwise they taste really dry. If you’re not sure where to find the extra fats, your local butcher probably has lots that you can buy at a good price! If you’re not avoiding certain meats for religious reasons or anything like that, you can even use pork fat in beef sausage, for example, based on whichever fat is cheaper.
Your local butcher can also sell you sausage casings, if you ask. They’re not very expensive and full disclosure: they are animal intestines. But this is what the overwhelming majority of sausage casings are, so you’ve eaten them on store-bought sausages many times. They don’t taste bad or anything, and they support the practice of using as much as possible from the animal!
2. Make pulled pork in a big batch
This is so much easier than it sounds, especially if you have a crock pot. Yet another great option if you’re not sure how to use large amounts of meat (particularly pork, but this could be done with other red meats, too).
You slow-roast the meat in a tenderizing liquid of some sort. Some people use beer, but I’ve heard of people using anything from a can of root beer to a tomato-based broth. The idea is that you want something that has acid and/or sugars in it (natural or otherwise), because the acid helps break down the toughness of the meat.
You roast it until it’s super tender, then you remove it from the liquid. Use two forks to shred up the meat and you can either stir in some BBQ sauce or serve it with sauce on the side. Either way, it’s to die for!
Because the meat is now cooked, it can be frozen again. We parcel it up into little one-cup portions and pull out one at a time to use on things like grilled cheeses, which is so good!
3. Make shredded beef for freezer storage
This is the pulled pork of beef. It’s tender and juicy and just wonderful in sandwiches! Simply slow-roast the beef until it’s super tender (a slow cooker is great if you have one) and then shred it apart with two forks. If not using it right away, it can now be frozen (I recommend dividing into portions first) because it’s cooked. Hooray!
These little portions of shredded beef are one of the most useful and storage-friendly ways to use large amounts of meat at one time. They’re ready for later use, but you also used up that huge chunk of beef that you weren’t sure what to do with!
4. Make microwave dinners that use meat
These are great, because they’re a quick and super frugal way to get dinner into your tummy. Cook the meat as you usually would, being sure not to over-cook it. Then find serving-sized containers (these are the ones we use and we love them) and fill one section with a portion of meat. You’ll want to cool the meat first.
The other (larger) section is a great place to sprinkle frozen veggies and corn, so that when you make your microwave dinner later, you’ve got a veggie and a starch! If you have gravy or some kind of sauce for the meat, you can put that over top as well, so that when you take it out and warm it later, it’s nice and moist.
5. Make lots of meatballs or meatloaf
If you’re wondering how to use large amounts of meat that has already been ground, you’re in the right place! This works well for beef, but ground lamb meatballs/kebabs are also common in some parts of the world and delicious. (In Lebanon, they call it kafta.)
If your beef hasn’t been ground yet, you can make ground beef out of it (if you don’t have a meat grinder, you probably know someone who does). Then, shape it into meatballs or small patties and cook them. You can also make it into meatloaf, bake it and slice it. Freeze them for up to 3 months in well-sealed bags or bins. When you want to use them, thaw the right amount of meatballs and put a nice sauce over them in a pot until they’re heated through, and serve. For meatloaf, warm it in the microwave and put hot gravy over it.
Frozen meatballs and meatloaf are really great for nights when you’re in a rush and just need a quick dinner idea! Also great for when friends stop by suddenly and you want to have an impromptu party! Who doesn’t love sweet and sour cocktail meatballs?
6. Make a big batch of tourtière
Because of the rolling out of the pastry, making pies can be a pain in the butt. I usually try to make a big batch if I’m going to be making pies, so that I don’t have to do it again for a long time!
Enter that huge amount of meat that you’re trying to use up!
Make a big batch of tourtière (if you can grind your meat somehow)! Beef, pork and veal are all used in traditional tourtière, so any of these meats or a combination can work. Cook up the filling so that the meat is appropriate to freeze again, and then put them in the uncooked pastry shells and cover with a top crust. It’s important to seal them tightly and cut holes in the top crust!
Stick them in the freezer in a single layer until they freeze. Once they’re frozen, wrap them tightly in plastic and then if you like, you can put them in a box for extra protection from getting banged around in the freezer. If you ever buy those frozen pie shells from the grocery, the boxes are so useful! We use them to store finished pies in the fridge or freezer all the time!
When you’re ready to eat your tourtière, you just have to bake it at 400°F for about a half hour to 45 minutes. You just need to cook and brown the pastry and warm the pie through, and then you’re ready to enjoy it!
7. Make multiple beef pot pies
Similarly to tourtière, beef pot pies are a great way to batch-make pies. The larger the amount of meat, the better! Just cut the meat into cubes and make the stew-like filling on the stove. Then place it in the raw pie shells and cover and seal. Cut holes once again, so that the steam will be able to escape during baking!
Then follow the freezing and reheating instructions above for tourtière and you’ll have a lovely beef pie to serve for dinner. People will think you’re so fancy!
8. Make one large shepherd’s pie or lots of small ones
When I was growing up, my family used the term shepherd’s pie to cover any kind of pie that had meat and potatoes. So I’m going to do that here, too. You can use lamb for traditional shepherd’s pie, or use beef for what’s technically cottage pie. Both are great!
The great thing about shepherd’s pie is that you can use any meat in any state for it. Raw, cut into small chunks works. Ground, cooked, works. Cooked and shredded works. So flexible!
If you have a large group of people, you can simply cut up a bunch of raw meat and make the meat base almost like a beef stew, and then put potatoes on top. But if you’re trying to feed just a small family, use some of that shredded beef from earlier out of your freezer! My grandmother always made her cottage pie this way when I was growing up, with beef that was already cooked and then shredded. And then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Unfortunately, potatoes freeze pretty terribly, so it’s best to avoid freezing the finished shepherd’s pie. If you’re trying to use a large amount of raw meat, I recommend making it into shredded, cooked meat first and storing it that way for smaller shepherd’s pies throughout the year.
9. Make a big batch of burritos
You know, the best burrito I’ve ever had is from this small restaurant in the Byward Market called Corazón de maïs. And do you know how they prepare their meat? That’s right, it’s shredded. Shredded meat is so easy to use and store, so why not make your burritos out of pre-cooked, shredded meat?
Burritos freeze really well. Make a big batch of burritos by slow-roasting and shredding your meat. Fill as many tortillas as you can with meat, corn, beans, guacamole, rice, cheese, sour cream, whatever you like! Then wrap them up tightly and freeze them. They’re so easy and delicious to eat, warmed in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, straight out of the freezer!
10. Make some friends
This may sound like a silly thing to say, but our food goes so much further when we collaborate! Have a group of friends over or invite your neighbours for a roast dinner if you’re new to the neighbourhood! Let them know that you’re providing the protein, so you’d appreciate them bringing veggies, starches and other sides.
This provides a big, generous meal for everyone and helps you build community, too! And when you have leftovers, they’re more interesting because you get to enjoy someone else’s family recipes for a change!
Whenever you’re in doubt, add a few loved ones or a little community to the mix! Food is always better with company, and we all have more if we each share what we have!
When have you had the toughest time figuring out how to use meat before it spoiled? Let us know what you did in the comments, so that we can get some extra ideas!