I bought some meat to make a stew sometime in the future. Is it best to brown the meat before I freeze it, or should I freeze it raw?
It might save you a few minutes when you decide to use it. Meat that has been frozen takes a bit longer to brown, since it will exude a bit more moisture.
But it's probably not worth it. Browning meat, then cooling it to freeze, is a huge hassle. Plus, you'll lose the fond on the bottom of your pan (unless you de-glaze and save that too.) That's a huge amount of flavor loss. You might as well just make the stew and freeze that (which is also good).
If you're going to freeze the meat, freeze it in the form that you got it. Defrost carefully (in the fridge, not the counter) and dry it thoroughly (e.g. paper towels) before browning.
A single portion is not really worth it but a few possible advantages
- You don't want to take the time to brown when it comes time to make the stew
- Browned you would not need to wait for it to fully thaw before adding to the stew.
- You are prepping multiple stews. Put each batch in a freezer bag and reuse the pan. You only have to clean the pan once.