Going plastic-free is a fantastic aspiration, but along the way lies several challenges. One of the biggest you might come across when trying to store meat without the use of man-made plastics.
Here are some of our nifty suggestions that could help transform your food prep regime forever.
1. Ice cream tubs
The first and easiest step to an environmentally friendly cooking regime is to reuse. It doesn’t get any more effective than that. It reeks of butter cookie tin-turned-sewing kit energy, but perhaps your grandmother got it right all along.
Of course, be sure to look out for the recycling symbol prior to chucking your meats in there. The safest food-safe plastics will be marked by the recycling symbol, with the numbers 2, 4 or 5. If you find your ice cream tubs starting to scratch, discolour or wear out in general, toss ‘em into recycling—you don’t want any of those nasty chemicals seeping into your food!
And it goes without being said but do yourself a solid and wash the container thoroughly before use—ice cream and raw chicken isn’t as enticing as it sounds.
2. Mason jars
This is one of the more economical options out there for a number of reasons: they are relatively inexpensive, have a long lifespan and are super effective.
Easily found at discount variety stores and supermarkets, mason jars can cost just $2 a piece yet last you a lifetime.
Additionally, they don’t retain that funky meat odour, so you won’t feel like throwing it out after just a couple uses.
To add, its tight-sealing lids means that you can wet-marinade your meats without worrying about pesky spills and prospective clean-up.
The only downside to this plastic-free alternative is it’s not the most feasible for bulk storing, i.e., it’s only practical with small amounts of meat.
Tip: If you’re going to freeze raw meat in a jar, leave some room at the top to accommodate for when they expand while freezing. Otherwise, you could end up with a cracked jar. Poof—two dollars gone just like that.
3. Silicone zip lock bags
Eco-friendly and food-safe, silicone zip lock bags are one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.
The price tag on these tends to be on the steeper side – ranging anywhere between $2 to $6 per piece – but it’s well worth the investment in the long run.
Manufactured using thick BPA-free silicone, the bags are simply cut out for the reusing job. Plus, chilling and freezing aside, you can use them to microwave or boil, too!
Contrary to the mason jars, silicone zip lock bags come in a slew of sizes: large family sizes, mini-individual sizes, you name it. So, if you regularly cook for a table of three or more, this might be a more sensible option for you.
Tip: Get your butcher to pack your foods directly into these storage bags to minimise wastage!
4. Cellulose bags
It might come as a bit of a shocker – we’ve seen the clear, crinkly packaging around since the early 1900s to house candy and titbits – but the material is plant-based and fully biodegradable, yet hardly ever marketed as such.
Proper cellulose, unlike man-made plastic, can be thrown into your compost pile at home once it’s reached its lifespan.
Compared to other eco-friendly packaging alternatives, cellulose bags are not only low in cost but also highly accessible. And, if you’re trying to persuade your mum to make the switch, you won’t have to spend five hours explaining to her what this suspicious new material is.
On top of that, they’re oil-resistant, making them excellent for storing meats that naturally secrete juices.
Tip: Protect your meat products by heat sealing your cellulose bags using a hand sealer.
5. Stainless steel containers
The beauty of the stainless-steel container? It’s entirely made of metal. Free of any kind of plastic or silicone, you can season, marinade, and shove into the oven—all in the same vessel.
They come in a variety of sizing options you get with these surpasses that of the silicone zip lock bags; a large container can fit a whole pastured chicken, while smaller ones can be used for portioning single serves.
The most satisfying part: you can stack them up perfectly in your fridge or freezer. Ideal for organisation freaks.
6. Silicone ice cube trays
Admittedly, this is not the most… pragmatic idea; we’re getting creative here, and that’s because when there’s a will, there’s a way.
Anything less than a vigorous washing will result in foul-tasting ice cubes and the average tray is only large enough to store baby-sized servings.
But if you’re all out of options and you just happen to have some supersized silicone ice cube trays lying around, why the hell not? And if you’ve done it, it makes for a great ‘Was I sober or drunk?’ story #braggingrights.
7. Parchment paper
Before the good ol’ days of destroying the Earth with single-use plastic, humans used greaseproof or parchment paper to store meat.
They’re hassle-free as clean-up is kept to a minimum; you can just compost or burn them after use.
In addition, there’s a good chance you already have this lying around at home, which means you can store meat plastic-free in a pinch without having to resort to ice cube trays.
This option fares particularly well for oven-baked dishes. Wrapping fish and meat in parchment paper allows for an even, thorough marinade pre-cooking, and keeps them from drying out in the oven.
Tip: After cooking, let the rest in the parchment paper for a few minutes as its flavours settle and juices reabsorb.
All in all?
There’s no one best way to store meat plastic-free; each option serves its own unique purpose and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We recommend using a good mix to get the most out of their individual strengths.
For instance, you could use ice cream tubs – as and when you’ve emptied them out – for everyday meat storing while keeping a large stainless-steel container on hand for the occasional whole roast bird. And when doing an oven-baked dish, you could opt for parchment paper right from the get-go.
This article was written for Mr Farmer.