Ever opened up your freezer and found your favorite ice cream or meat cuts covered in icy crystals? If yes, you’re not alone. This is something known as a freezer burn.
From turning your veggies into a tasteless mush to making your meat tough and inedible, freezer burn can do a lot of damage, so you should learn how to avoid it.
What Exactly is Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn takes place when your food — usually meat — is exposed to cold, dry air in the freezer for extended periods. Water molecules in the air come into contact with the food surface, resulting in dehydration and discoloration.
The most common sign of freezer burn is white crystals or a powdery substance developing on the surface of the food. Other signs include dark spots, shriveling, and an unpleasant odor.
Although most people believe that freezer-burned food is unsafe to eat, this isn’t true. Freezer burn doesn’t actually affect the safety of your food or alter its nutritional value. It can, however, change the texture and flavor of your food. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture states that as long as you cook it thoroughly, food with freezer burn is completely safe to eat.
Why Does Freezer Burn Occur in the First Place?
Freezer burn can occur for several reasons, from temperature fluctuations to improper packaging.
If you keep opening and closing your freezer door, air will continuously get in and out of the unit, resulting in temperature changes. This causes moisture to evaporate from the food, forming a white powdery substance — a clear sign of freezer burn.
If you don’t wrap your food properly or place it in an airtight container, dry air can permeate the food and result in freezer burn. This is especially important if you’re packing meat or seafood since they are more susceptible to drying out than other foods.
Other reasons for freezer burn include not wrapping meat properly before freezing it, leaving food in the freezer for too long, and improper thawing techniques that don’t allow enough time to thaw safely.
5 Simple Steps To Prevent Freezer Burn
To minimize the chances of freezer burn and keep your food fresh for longer, there’re a few simple steps you can follow. They include:
1. Wrap Your Food Properly
Exposing your food to air allows the moisture to evaporate faster, resulting in freezer burn. The solution? Consider wrapping your food in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing it in the freezer. Please ensure the plastic wrap is tight enough so no air gets inside, but not so tight that it punctures the food.
Aluminum foil is another effective wrapping material because it holds its shape well and allows you to seal individual portions. It can also help seal the food’s natural flavors and juices, helping to keep it fresh and delicious for extended periods.
If you’re storing large amounts of food like raw meat or vegetables, try placing it on baking sheets first and then covering them with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will create a protective barrier and help keep air out while preventing moisture from escaping.
2. Use Airtight Containers
You can also use airtight containers to store your food. This will help keep the moisture from evaporating, which can help prevent freezer burn.
They’re also useful for dividing your frozen goods into portions, so you don’t have to thaw everything at once if you only need one or two items.
The best part? Freezer-safe containers come in several sizes, so you can choose the size that best fits your needs.
3. Avoiding Overstuffing Your Freezer
One of the most common mistakes people make when freezing food is overloading the freezer. This can limit air circulation and increase the risk of freezer burn.
Additionally, overstuffing the freezer means items are more likely to transfer their flavors onto each other. To avoid cross-contamination, it’s best to only fill your freezer halfway with food, so the texture and taste aren’t affected by frost build-up.
4. Label Everything
While a freezer can extend the life of your foods, it can also increase the risk of freezer burn. The longer your food stays frozen, the more ice crystals form on it and the more moisture it loses, affecting its texture and flavor.
Make sure you label all your food items with the date you stored them. This will help you keep track of how long a particular item has been in the freezer. Try to aim for no longer than three months unless it’s something specifically designed for long-term storage, like beans, whole grains, or frozen broth cubes.
5. Carefully Monitor the Temperature Settings
Make sure to set your freezer at a consistent temperature, ideally at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, to help prevent freezer burn (via Food and Drug Administration).
If you have an older model with manual temperature control, try placing an appliance thermometer in the freezer to monitor the temperature. You should also keep the door closed as much as possible and avoid opening it unnecessarily to maintain the temperature levels.
What Types of Foods Does Freezer Burn Affect?
Freezer burn can affect all types of food. However, food with high moisture content, including meat products like meatballs, hamburger patties, chicken breasts, seafood, and pork chops, are most commonly affected by it. Similarly, dairy products like ice creams and butter can also be affected by freezer burn if they’re not stored in an airtight container.
Other commonly affected items include vegetables like corn, green beans, peas, and spinach; fruits like apples, bananas, peaches, and strawberries; baked things like cookies, cakes, and bread; and even leftovers like casseroles.
What Does Freezer Burn Taste Like?
What freezer burn tastes like typically depends on the food you are eating and how long it’s been in your freezer. Generally speaking, meat and seafood have a more subtle, gamey taste. Vegetables or fruit, on the other hand, might taste watery or bland.
Can I Get Rid of the Freezer Burn Taste From Food?
Yes, you can get rid of the freezer-burn taste from your food. Consider thawing your food at room temperature for about an hour before cooking. You can also try cooking your food in a manner that will mask any potential freezer-burn flavor.
For instance, if preparing chicken breasts, cut off the freeze burn section and try sautéing chicken with some spices or vegetables first. You can also serve it with garlic or mustard cream sauce. Besides helping mask the off-taste, this will also turn a bland meal into something truly delicious and flavorful.
Is Eating Food With a Freezer Burn Safe?
Yes, eating freezer burn food is safe. This is primarily because food with freezer burn won’t make you sick or cause food poisoning. It may, however, affect the taste, texture, and nutritional content of your food.