How to Freeze Meat without Plastic: Freezing meat without freezer bags

This post was most recently updated on March 23rd, 2021

Going plastic free is a great aspiration. But there are so many, many challenges along the way. The biggest one I have come up against so far is being able to freeze meat without plastic or using freezer bags.

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The first step to freezing meat without plastic was to get rid of the single-use plastic – ie the meat trays and double wrapped cling film by using reusable plastic containers. Even ice cream containers work well to freeze meat in.

I have a personal bug bear with cling film (aka plastic wrap), I think it is wasteful and unnecessary in almost every situation.

I particularly get mad at the supermarkets using a double (or sometimes triple!) cling film layer over trays of meat, combined with most of them shutting down their butchery counters. This then removes all choice from consumers, it is plastic packaging or nothing, baby.

I understand that they think they need to use this plastic packaging to contain the meat juices. The reality is that it still does leak, and if you have even left meat in the sink to thaw, you will know that it does.

I haven’t bought cling film for our household’s use in about 3 years, so having it double wrapped over my meat each night has never sat well with me. Buying meat without plastic will be the first challenge to being able to freeze meat without plastic.

Aluminium foil has previously been our go-to to store food in the fridge and freezing food. But it is not ideal for long term freezer storage as frozen food is hard usually, and it tends to rub holes in the foil. Plastic containers often get brittle in the freezer and break, unless they are a specific freezer container that is able to get handle the freezer temperature.

Want to listen rather than read? Check out my video ->


What can we use to Freeze Meat without Plastic Freezer Bags??

I have hunted high and low for ideas to store meat in the freezer that doesn’t involve plastic. There are very few options.

1. Mason Jars

Mason jars, or a similar canning jar brand, are often suggested for freezing meat. However, they aren’t the most economical use of space because of their shape. Also, when you smash one – and you will – you have a freezer full of glass shards and wasted food.

However, if you are storing smaller volumes of meat at once, using mason jars can be a feasible option.

Have you tried to fit a large family meal’s worth of meat in a jar? I need bigger jars!

They are however good for freezing liquids – find out how to do that safely here.

So my search for a good alternative to plastic freezer bags continued. 

RELATED POST: Plastic free kitchen

2. Paper

Sadly, butchers paper and freezer paper now has a coating of plastic on the inside, and these laminated combination products are THE WORST because you cannot compost or recycle them! So they are actually worse than freezing meat in a plastic bag, because at least you can recycle one of those.

At least with using paper you can fit more in than a glass jar, and it is easier to wrap meat with bones in it than it is to try and wedge them in to jars.

You can however get compostable soy wax paper or if you are just storing the meat for a week or two, a couple of layers of thick brown kraft paper will work fine. Neither is a perfect solution for long term meat storage in the freezer.

3. Aluminum Foil

This, again is good for short term storage. As soon as the foil rubs on something else and gets a hole in it, the contents will suffer from freezer burn, so it is not a perfect solution either!

However, you can use a layer of brown paper or parchment paper over the outside of the aluminum foil to add extra protection from developing holes.

Then I stumbled upon two great idea someone mentioned on a forum – Metal Gastronorm pans and Silicone Freezer Bags!! For more about my experiences on these two items, read below.

2 Plastic free alternatives to freezer bags

4. Eco Friendly Freezer Bags for Meat: Using Silicone Freezer Bags in the Freezer

 These are also used as reusable Sous Vide bags in restaurants, but they are perfect for freezing meat at home without using single use plastic bags or styrofoam trays!


Silicone freezer bags are made of safe and eco friendly food grade silicone and they keep in the meat juices from your frozen meat while it is defrosting. They are also perfect for storing cooked meat for putting in the fridge or freezer.

Silicone has no BPA, BPS, BPF, PVC, Phthalates, or Petroleum, and they are both plastic and latex free.

The thing I love about the silicone freezer bags is that you can get your butcher to pack your food into the air tight silicone food storage bags directly at the grocery store.

Then when you get home you can refrigerate or freeze, add marinades, microwave or boil, reheat, even eat out of the bags directly!

As a reusable freezer bag, these silicone bags are perfect, they are thick and washable and I love how you can reuse them over & over again. And if you want to make freezer meals, they come in both large family sized and smaller individual sized bags.

I bought and love these ones , but there are so many reusable silicone bags available that you can checkout here.

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My tips for using Silicone Freezer Bags

Three quick tips, that I hope you will find helpful:

1. When you first open the silicone freezer bag, there is a strong plastic type odor. BUT if you wash the bags in the sink or the dishwasher it will get the smell out easily.

2. The seal is very tight on the zippers to start with. Put a little vegetable oil or water on the inside and outside of the zipper so the bar slides easier. Especially for the first few uses.

Once your bags are broken in and you get used to sliding at an efficient angle, you won’t need the lubrication anymore. I find that generally the silicone freezer bags are easier to work with when the zips are wet.

3. Do not put the slide bar in the dishwasher, the high heat can warp the bar and make it harder to slide. The parts fit and seal tight when they are straight. I wouldn’t want to try to slide a warped bar.

4. When you thaw meat, stand the bags upright in the sink and allow it to thaw. You can fill the sink with warm water to speed up the defrosting process.

These silicone freezer bags seal tight and are obviously built to last. I hope to get many more years of regular use out of these reusable bags and I’m sure you will too.

RELATED: 4 Lessons I learned shopping plastic free

5.  Steamer Pans to Freeze Meat without Plastic

Steamer pans are the pans used in bain-maries for buffet meals at hotels etc, Gastronorm is the most well known brand, these are similar to a plastic container that you might keep things in the freezer in, but they are made of stainless steel.

These pans aren’t cheap, but they should last forever. They are stainless steel so won’t react with your food and they are stack-able. Perfect for the freezer!

Freezing meat without plastic

I got mine from these guys, I found them on Trademe (NZ’s answer to ebay). You can also get them on Amazon.

Watch the prices and check the shipping costs – some of the shipping prices are crazy high.

Steamer Pan Sizes Best for the Freezer

Steamer pans come in different sizes based on what portion of a big pan they are – 1/1 being a very big pan, 1/2 being half that, 1/4 a quarter and so on right down to 1/9. They also come in different depths – 65mm, 100mm, 150mm, 200mm etc.

My pans arrived in the post today! YAY! As a starter kit, I bought 5 x 1/4 65mm pans and 5 x 1/4 100mm pans and 10 lids (and rural shipping) for $200.

Which seems like A LOT to pay for storage containers. But considering they should last me a lifetime and you think of all the money you would spend on rubbish disposal over your lifetime if you use several meat trays per week. It has got to add up.

Freezing meat without plastic

Tips for Using Gastronorm / Steamer Pans in the Freezer

Usually we only store our meat for a week or two before using it.

For longer storage, I found that covering the top of the meat with baking paper, or pouring water over the top to protect the meat from the air. As it isn’t the cold that causes freezer burn, it is actually the dry air.

They are particularly good for storing ground meat, usually ground beef, chicken or rabbit. You can use them to store cooked meat, or fresh meat. The trick to compacting the meat well to keep the air out from between it.

I will keep you posted as to how well they work for us. What do you use to store your meat in the freezer or fridge?

UPDATE: Jan 2021 These pans are great when you can find a butcher that will fill them. I can’t wait to have homekill meat to use in these. I haven’t had any problem with freezer burn or anything. They are really a great solution for freezing meat without plastic. 

Enjoyed this? Read on for more tips for going plastic free.

How do you store your frozen things without plastic? Let me know in the comments below.

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17 thoughts on “How to Freeze Meat without Plastic: Freezing meat without freezer bags”

  1. You could dehydrate your meat in canning jars and it will last a very long time and you dont need to worry about power outages either and the chance of losing your valueable protein. Check out the Kneady Homesteader on You-Tube I believe thats who I first watched dehydrating their meats for storage as an alternative to freezing because length of storage is
    longer and no worries if the power goes out your food is safe!!!

  2. Wouldn’t using silicon (ie the production) be just as bad for the environment be just as bad as the production of plastic? We are going plastic free but I am very hesitant to go down the silicon route. Also, the term food safe worries me, until relatively recently plastic containers for food were thought to be food safe. I find it difficult to trust companies producing things like this. Yes they are less environmentally harsh as they are reusable, so less by way of filling our planet and harming wildlife, but production still worries me. I love that you haven’t experienced freezer burn. What is the longest your meat has been in the pans for before being used? We buy half a cow and pig at a time, so our meat can be frozen for a year to a year and a half. I have invested in glass freezer to oven containers but thus far have tended to use them only for freezer meal preps as they are too small to freeze full joints in. So am desperately searching for an alternative for them. Thank you for sharing your findings they have been so helpful.

    • I don’t know about ALL silicone bags but I did buy some from and they say at the end of the bags lifespan you can burn the bag and use the ashes in your compost.

  3. Hi I am currently in tbe process of trying to figure out the best way to do this. I need somethinf I can somewhat see through. How much do you like the silicone bags? have they lasted for you. what are your thoughtson glass baking ware?

    • The silicone bags are great. I have had more for a couple of years. I haven’t used the glass bakeware myself, but my mother has, and she finds them really good. They stack better than the bags do, but are of course a bit more expensive!

  4. Hi just wondering how you keep your meat from sticking together in containers e.g. multiple cuts of steak in one container for bulk buyers.,

    • Hi Tess, generally we get a whole container out at once as we are feeding 5. You can free-flow freeze meat separated on a cookie tray in the freezer for 12-24 hours before placing in your container, or you can use 2 layers of parchment paper between layers.

      • I reuse plastic. I know, plastic, but I have these thick freezer bags that I use like separating sheets between steaks (close and empty), and I cleanse them once used (because they are thick and I use them as sheets and not like bags, it is quite easy to clean them), let them dry and then reuse. I think that you can purchase silicone sheets or some metal to do the same. Silicone tend to keep odours, so I don’t like it very much.

  5. Many years ago, meat was actually wrapped in butcher paper. This is still what we use for meat we butcher. You can find it at a butcher supply. Maybe check Amazon. Meat wrapped in butcher paper keeps well if wrapped well. We double wrap large animals such as elk that might be in the freezer up to 2 years.

    • Hi Bonnie
      Thank you for your comment! Sadly butcher paper is pretty much all plastic coated these days. There are a few that have a soy wax on them, but most are good old plastic.

  6. Hi Dana, Thank you for this great idea. I agree that this is one of the hardest items on the long list of plastic elimination challenges, especially for bulk meat buyers! Could you please tell me if the lids are airtight or even hold themselves on, or do you have to strap them down somehow? Im very impressed you have managed to avoid freezer burn!

    • Hi Sam, the lids are not tight per sey. Once they are stacked on top of each other they pretty much keep each others lids on. I have found that placing a sheet of baking paper over the top of the meat helps to keep it fresh too – especially if the meat is in the freezer for a few months. Generally we buy meat weekly, but some of our home raised meat is in much longer.

    • Hi Brenda, That is a good idea, as long as your butcher paper isn’t plastic coated. Sadly most of them are these days!


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