It’s time to myth bust protein! I need protein, so I must eat meat. I can’t meal prep. I eat a lot of meat and it will go bad. Meat gets dry when you keep reheating it. Meal prep is only for vegetables.
Below you are going to find the finer details on meat meal prep and shelf-life, but let’s take a moment to get a couple quick things cleared up. According to the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) the average human needs .8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, or .36 grams per pound. That means the average male, weighing 195 pounds, with a normal activity level, needs 70 grams of protein a day.
We get protein, even in miniscule amounts, from just about every whole food we eat. Yes, fruits and vegetables too. We get quite a bit from nuts, seeds and grains as well. A balanced diet will give you all the protein you need with or without meat. Throw in some eggs, dairy, fish and a steak, and your protein levels will be firmly established.
With that being said, let’s start with breakfast. A classic is the boiled egg, but it won’t last forever! If kept in the shell, it has a week at most. If you peel it beforehand, it has 4-5 days. So peel a couple and leave the others in their shell for a quick morning meal or protein packed salad topper.
Chicken is best stored cooked. Raw only lasts one or two days! If it’s grilled or roasted, you can actually eat it for up to a week. So marinate your chicken in the fridge at the beginning of meal prep day, cook it up and place it in the refrigerator immediately after.
This only applies to baked goods and recipes that call for cooling. The reason for the cool down myth is the condensation produced from rapid temperature changes. This can cause baked items to become soggy and can create too much water on top of soups causing them to sour. A large pot of soup or stew should be divided into smaller portions and immediately put in the fridge. Otherwise, all foods should be refrigerated once cooked to prevent room temperatures from causing bacteria growth. It is very important to cool rice and meats immediately.
On that note, many people say re-heating meats can make them dry or tough. When it comes to chicken, cook it through but stop when it is springy to the touch like your own skin. Then immediately cool it down to prevent further cooking. Cook red meat one temperature below your liking. If you like it rare, simply sear it on the outside. If you like it well-done, cook it until it’s a dark medium. Then when you re-heat it for your meal, it’s cooked just right.
As for beef, cooked ground beef, think burgers or meatloaf, lasts for around four days. The same goes for pork, lamb or any other cut of beef. If you’re really sensitive to how your steak is cooked or simply want to eat it at the end of the week, you can pre-marinate on meal prep day and cook it within two days after. This will extend the life of your meat a little longer.
Whether marinating or simply storing, it is vital to follow meal storage safety guidelines. For meats, this means air tight containers, and if it’s raw, put it on the bottom shelf to avoid any leaking on other foods. When it comes to reheating, only do it ONCE! So use proper storage containers, like the Fitmark Bento box, portion it out one meal at a time and always keep it stored at 40° F or below.