Freezer burn is never fun. Freezing food should be an easy way to save money and waste less. Instead, we often view it as an unfavorable way of preserving food when we pull it out of the freezer and see ice forming on top. You’ll be happy to hear, however, that there are ways to prevent this from happening and regain your excitement about frozen dinners!
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Freezer Burn Is Caused By Moisture Loss
All foods contain some portion of water, so they form ice crystals when they freeze. These crystals move to the coldest part of food and your freezer during something called sublimation. Similar to evaporation, this process is what changes matter from a solid to a gas. In this process, the foods lose water allowing oxygen to change the flavor and color of frozen foods. So, even though freezing food is a great way to save food for a long period of time, you have to keep in mind that the longer it’s in the freezer, the more likely it is to have freezer burn.
It Affects Taste, Not Safety
Believe it or not – the dehydration taking place during sublimation doesn’t affect the safety quality of the food. So, when you pull out that 2-month-old chicken breast and see it’s a bit dull in color and has some ice crystals formed on top, don’t toss it! It may be a bit less juicy and flavorful as it would’ve the day you bought it fresh, but it’s totally safe to eat.
Think about it: the ice crystals formed on top simply turn into water when cooked. Not only does water do nothing for the flavor, it can often dry out the food even more when it’s cooking. However, there’s nothing unsafe about water, which is why freezer burn is perfectly okay to consume. You can try to “brush off” the freezer burn to get rid of some portion of the burn.
Check for expiration dates and make sure your food doesn’t thaw before re-freezing. These errors allow for bacteria to grow on the food making it unsafe to consume. Another tip for food consumption safety is to defrost your frozen meats in the refrigerator. Thawing meat in the fridge will thaw your food, while keeping it cold.
Finding the Culprit
Not to point fingers, but odds are good that the issue is either you or your freezer. First, we’ll start by pointing the finger at the chef. Do you open your freezer too often, or worse, leave it open for long periods of time? When you meal prep and place proteins in Ziploc bags, do you seal it so it’s airtight or leave it full of air? And lastly, do you run a bunch of errands in between going to the store and coming home? All of these could be things you need to improve on if you don’t want freezer burn!
Your freezer must be set at or below 0° for it to freeze food properly. When it’s set warmer than this, it gives bacteria the opportunity to grow. Another way that freezer burn maybe your freezer’s fault is if the seal is broken on your refrigerator/freezer. This allows heat in the air to enter the freezer and thaw the food – sometimes without you even realizing it for a while. If this is the case, it’s important to contact Home-Tech for a repair!
You Can Prevent It
The main way to prevent your foods from getting freezer burnt is again, by setting your freezer at or below 0°. We also recommend triple packaging your frozen meats. So, what you’ll do is wrap your food in freezer paper or plastic wrap, then foil, and then in a freezer-safe bag. Make sure there’s as little air as possible in the packaging. Using airtight containers for things like fruits, veggies, and other leftovers helps a ton. As far as ice cream goes, you can cover the top of the container with plastic wrap before popping the lid back on.
This one’s pretty obvious but only open your freezer when necessary. If you have small children, it may be wise to invest in a child-proof lock system. It always seems like kids enjoy opening the freezer and simply feeling how cold it is. Kids will be kids, but this escape of cold air can and will cause freezer burn!
Lastly, only buy what you know you’ll make. There’s usually a “freeze by” date on the packaging of refrigerated food. It’s not only important to follow this date but to also mark the date on which it actually went into the freezer. Oftentimes people assume that frozen food “never” expires, but it does. If the food doesn’t come with an expiration date, a good rule of thumb is to allow yourself 2-4 months to cook the food before tossing it. After this, it won’t taste good and it may not be safe to eat depending on what it is.
Is It Already Freezer Burnt At the Store?
Grocery store chains don’t do everything perfectly all the time, either! The food you throw in your cart may have freezer burn before even making it to your home. When you grab a bag of frozen fruit and feel big clumps through the bag that means it’s probably already been exposed to sublimation. Put that bag to the side and go for another one. With meat, it can be a little trickier. If you’re able to see through the bag, opt for the meat that looks the freshest. It’s best to buy fresh and freeze it yourself, though.
You now know enough about freezer burn to write a book about it. Well, maybe not, but you should know enough about it to prevent it and share your tips with a friend. If you ever feel like your freezer is causing the issue, contact Home-Tech by filling out a service request or calling us at 800-800-8356. We’re here to help with any major appliance or air conditioning needs!