If you want to save extra dollars on groceries, freezing them is a great idea since it helps food last longer and saves you shopping trips. But leave those foods in your freezer for too long and you’ll encounter freezer burn, which harms taste and looks alike. Do you want to save money and make the food you buy last longer without running into dreaded freezer burn? Then read on. We’ll explain what freezer burn is, how it happens, and what you can do to avoid losing food and money to it.
Table of Contents
- What Is Freezer Burn?
- How Does Freezer Burn Happen?
- Identifying Freezer Burn
- Is It Safe To Eat Freezer-Burned Food?
- How To Prevent Freezer Burn
- Repackage Store-Bought Food
- Avoid Putting Hot Food Into The Freezer
- Use Quality, Freezer-Safe Storage Containers
- Double-Wrap Foods
- Use The Smallest Possible Container For Liquids
- Cover The Surface Of The Food
- Remove Excess Air From Freezer Bags
- Three Tips Of Removing Air Manually From A Freezer Bag
- Seal Containers Properly
- Keep Food Frozen For As Little Time As Possible
- Adjust Your Freezer For Ideal Food Storage
- What To Do If Food Has Freezer Burn
- Prevent Freezer Burn Today
What Is Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn is what happens when water is allowed to evaporate from frozen foods and oxygen permitted to seep in. This causes discoloration and changes to flavor and texture that can render freezer-burned food unappealing, though such food is usually still edible. Freezer burn looks different for various kinds of foods, such as gray spots, slimy or shiny films, or dry spots. Freezer burn is irreversible, so preventing it in the first place is always your best option.
How Does Freezer Burn Happen?
Freezer burn can happen any time food is exposed to air, not only during packaging but while frozen as well. When your freezer’s temperature fluctuates, the partial thawing allows water to evaporate before your food can refreeze, resulting in freezer burn.
It is essential to understand that what keeps food safe in your freezer is the layer of frozen water that forms on top of the food. This layer slows down the growth of micro-organisms and enzymes that activates food spoilage. If this layer is disturbed, spoilage or other undesired changes to a foods’ appearance or texture can occur.
Identifying Freezer Burn
How do you identify if your foods are freezer burned? There is no specific answer to this question, as every food is different. However, there are some obvious signs to check as you take your food out of a freezer. They may include dryness, discoloration, wrinkles, or ice crystals.
What to check for in the following foods for freezer burns:
- Poultry products: check for white patches
- Beef: look for grayish- brown or dark patches on the meat
- Ice cream: the freezer burns presents itself as a thin or thick layer of ice crystals
- Vegetables: if cooked, their texture may be dry and tough. Fruits may appear dry and shriveled.
Is It Safe To Eat Freezer-Burned Food?
Did you open your fridge and find food with freezer burns? Are you in a dilemma of whether to consume it or not? The answer is yes, it is generally safe to consume foods that are freezer burned. These are just foods that have lost water and gained extra oxygen; they’re not spoiled. However, they are usually drier than they should be and may lose flavor and texture, so eating them isn’t as pleasant as it could have been.
Can you get sick by eating freezer burned food? No. You cannot get ill by consuming such kinds of foods as they have only lost moisture. Frozen foods do not encourage bacteria growth, and as such, they do not spoil easily.
How To Prevent Freezer Burn
Freezer burn can be prevented using various methods. One notable mistake that most people make while freezing food is not removing air from the packaging bag. Another is freezing foods that are still too hot. Below are tips on how you can prevent freezer burns.
Repackage Store-Bought Food
Food purchased from supermarkets and other stores is usually not packaged for freezer storage. The covering material is usually thin and allows air to get in. Such air will make the moisture in your food evaporate and form ice crystals. Therefore, for safekeeping, you must remove the original wrapping material and use a more durable packaging paper to wrap your store-bought foods.
Should I also repackage sliced bread? Yes. The bags loaves of bread are packaged in are not only weak and thin but also contain breathable air holes that can promote freezer burn. Thus, removing the original packaging material and repackaging it in freezer-friendly bags or containers is the best way to
Avoid Putting Hot Food Into The Freezer
Before packaging freezer foods, always ensure they are at room temperature or below. By cooling the food first, you ensure that no freezer burn-friendly steam is trapped inside the package. Steam is not good for frozen foods as it causes excess water crystallization that results in freezer burned foods. Putting warm food in the freezer may cause other foods to thaw out as well, causing even more stored food to suffer freezer burn.
If you want your food to cool faster, you can first place it in the refrigerator. This allows it to safely cool down to a freezer-friendly temperature.
Use Quality, Freezer-Safe Storage Containers
Not all storage containers are designed for freezer storage. Most of these containers have small holes that allow oxygen to creep in, or don’t allow for a proper seal, which results in freezer burns. Freezer-safe storage containers are made of thicker plastic or glass materials that seal tightly and don’t allow oxygen to enter.
While it may be tempting to reuse packaging from grocery stores, these containers are not up to the task of preventing freezer burn. Bags are a good alternative as they’re cheaper than dedicated freezer storage containers, yet are still effective for storing foods in your freezer in a space-efficient way. However, you should ensure that these bags are labeled for freezer use; otherwise, they may lack the quality needed to protect your food.
Double wrapping frozen foods is another way to keep them safe from freezer burn. This involves wrapping foods in two different materials, which helps reduce the amount of air seeping in that can cause freezer burn. This entails wrapping food tightly in the first layer, then using a freezer-approved outer wrapping like butcher’s paper or foil to create an air-proof, durable outer layer.
Foods that can be double wrapped include all solid/non-liquid foods such as baked foods, bread, and leftovers.
Use The Smallest Possible Container For Liquids
It is essential to understand that even if a container is airtight, its contents can still become freezer burned if any space remains for oxygen. By keeping your containers as full as possible, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of oxygen available to cause freezer burn.
For liquid foods such as stew, sauce, and stews, a suitably-sized container with a tight-fitting lid is required. Ensure the food fills the container so that only a small space of about 1.3cm is left for headroom. You need this headroom to account for expansion caused by freezing, so don’t forget it, or you might run into issues with containers bursting or lids popping off.
Cover The Surface Of The Food
Even a tiny amount of headroom can cause freezer burns. You can easily prevent this by covering the food’s surface with an extra layer of protection before putting the lid.
Use a piece of plastic wrap, foil, or other non-reactive, food-safe material to press against the surface of the food so that no air is trapped below, then press the excess up the sides before affixing an airtight lid. Doing this gives you the headspace needed for freezing foods to expand while creating an impermeable barrier against oxygen that eliminates freezer burn.
Remove Excess Air From Freezer Bags
While packing your food, it is essential to suck out any extra air before freezing the food to reduce its chances of suffering from the dreaded burn. Using vacuum-sealed freezer bags is one of the best and easiest ways to eliminate excess air, since they extract unnecessary air in moments, give you better looking and tasting frozen foods, and provide durable, long-lasting protection.
You can still remove excess air from freezer bags without a vacuum sealer, but it’s more involved, less efficient, and prone to errors. If you plan on freezing a lot of food, investing in a vacuum sealing system could save you loads of freezer-burned food and wasted money in the long run.
To manually remove air from freezer bags:
- Place the food on the bottom of the packing paper, fold the food and bag over as you move towards the opening.
- Seal almost the whole top of the bag, but leave a small opening
- Use a straw to suck as much air as you can, then quickly remove the straw and seal the rest of the bag.
Seal Containers Properly
Going through the whole process of removing air and other methods of protecting your food is a waste of time if you do not adequately seal the food container. Improper sealing allows air in that results in freezer burn.
How do you know your container is sealed correctly? First, ensure you have the right lid for your container, and that seals tightly and securely. If using freezer bags, ensure they’re seals are fully closed across the entire opening. Only properly-sealed containers will eliminate issues with freezer burn.
Keep Food Frozen For As Little Time As Possible
While properly-stored frozen food can stay safe for a long time, it is essential to use it as soon as possible to avoid side-effects related to freezer burn. How soon you should use your frozen food depends on the type. However, the longer the food stays in the freezer, the higher the chances of becoming freezer burned.
If properly stored, it is possible to have your food free of freezer burn for up to nine months. However, after this period, no matter how properly the food is sealed, freezer burn will still occur. Rotating frozen foods to use the oldest first will help avoid problems. Writing the date food was stored on the package makes this kind of first-in, first-out food rotation a simple matter.
Adjust Your Freezer For Ideal Food Storage
After undertaking all preventative measures to protect your food from freezer burns, it is crucial to ensure the freezer is adjusted to maintain an adequate temperature for optimal food storage. Below are four adjustments that you can make to your freezer for safe food storage.
Maintaining Freezer Temperature At 0° C (-18° F)
For better frozen food storage, adjust your freezer to 0° C or (-18° F). This is how cold your freezer must be to properly store your precious food. If freezer temperatures rise above or below this temperature, your food may freeze too quickly, or not at all. While both temperature extremes are a problem, higher temperatures are worse as they encourage moisture to evaporate faster, leading to increased levels of freezer burn.
Keep The Freezer At Least 75% Full
Keeping your freezer about 75% full is recommended for optimal frozen food storage. This allows food to remain frozen while still providing for the quick circulation of cold air, something that overstuffing your freezer restricts. A lack of proper air circulation can result in inconsistencies in freezer temperatures, which result in freezer burn, so you’ll want to ensure you have neither too much nor too little freezer space.
If you’re finding that your freezer doesn’t offer enough storage space, you may need to investigate large commercial freezers with enough room to store all the food you could ever wish.
On the other hand, if you often struggle to fill your freezer’s full capacity, you might want to look at smaller options, like the best mini freezers. These freezers may be small in size, but pack the punch you need to keep your frozen foods in prime condition.
Even if your freezer is only 75% full, you still need to leave sufficient headroom above and below food for proper air circulation. This helps keep temperatures in their optimum range so foods will freeze faster, and the impact of freezer-burn causing temperature spikes is reduced.
10cm is the required amount of headspace at the top and bottom of your freezer for optimal circulation. If your freezer lacks a bottom rack, you’ll need to find some way to add the required space beneath.
Open The Door As Little As Possible
The more frequently you open your freezer, the more you increase your chances of freezer burn. Each time the door is opened, cold air rushes out, replaced by warmer, more humid air. This makes your freezer work twice as hard to maintain the appropriate temperature. Minimize this by limiting the number of times you open your freezer a day and avoid leaving your freezer door open for longer than necessary.
You can speed up expeditions into your freezer’s icy interior by organizing foods by date and product type, which makes it faster and more efficient to find just the entree you’re looking for without letting all your freezer’s cold air slip by.
What To Do If Food Has Freezer Burn
Have you noticed some freezer burn on that steak you want to prepare? Worry not. This section will give tips on how to deal with freezer burned food.
Since freezer burn is simply dehydration caused by exposure to air, food with freezer burn should still be safe to eat. That is unless it’s been stored long past the recommended date. Assuming that’s not the case, you can either cook and eat or throw away freezer-burned food.
If you decide to eat freezer-burned food, just cut out the unsightly parts and use the rest. You can add these discarded bits of freezer-burned meat to soups, stews, chili, or any other dish where any potential off-flavors won’t be noticed. Freezer burned ice cream will probably still taste great, though the large crystals of ice it causes might add an unexpected bit of extra crunch some find objectionable. If this is the case, consider using it in milkshakes instead.
Prevent Freezer Burn Today
Freezing your food is the best way to safely store it, and will save you time and money on grocery shopping. However, poor storage methods can result in freezer burn leading to a lot of food being wasted. With the information you’ve learned today, you should now know what causes freezer burn and how to prevent it. Keeping your frozen foods properly contained and organized in a sufficiently-cold freezer with plenty of air circulation will help them last longer and preserve their taste and texture.