Written by Bernie Carr
A lot of people use their freezers to store food and save money. Unfortunately, some of that food may eventually be forgotten or stored in the freezer too long. It happens to everyone. A year later, you’ll find frozen foods that you intended to eat months ago. Sometimes you get lucky and find out the food is just fine, just like these tamales that were kept in the freezer for a year. Other times, you find the food is freezer burned and you just throw it in the trash.
But is the food truly bad or can it be salvaged?
What is freezer burn?
Freezer burn looks like grayish-brown leathery spots in frozen food – it is very noticeable in frozen meats. It is caused by air coming in contact with the surface of the food. Cold, dry air causes dehydration and outer layers are susceptible to moisture loss. You’ll also find ice crystals on the surface of the food. The ice crystals are very commonly seen in frozen fruit, vegetables, or ice cream.
Foods with a higher moisture content like fruits, vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, fish and ice cream tend to be more affected by freezer burn than foods that are low in moisture such as flour, nuts or seeds.
What causes freezer burn?
Freezer burn is caused by leaving food frozen for too long, as well as improperly packaging.
How do you prevent it?
- Package your foods properly. I started using a food sealer to repackage bulk meats, vegetables, as well as prepared foods. If you don’t have a food sealer, wrap the food in plastic wrap, then in foil, and then place inside a freezer bag for maximum protection.
- Remove as much air as possible when freezing such as fruits and vegetables.
- Mark the date on your frozen foods and try to use the oldest ones first. This way you avoid keeping them in the freezer too long.
What happens when you eat foods with freezer burn?
To answer the original question, I checked the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. If you eat food with freezer burn, it won’t hurt you. You may notice some dryness or a loss in quality. Freezer burn causes a loss in quality, but does not affect food safety. Or, if it’s just too far gone, the quality may be so poor you’ll want to just throw it away. (Of course if you notice any bad smells, taste or other signs that the food is spoiled in addition to being freezer burned, don’t eat it, just discard it.)
I hate wasting food, so I was glad to find out that freezer burn does not make food unsafe to eat. Previously, I just threw away any foods that have freezer burn, but now I won’t be so quick to toss. I just cut out the freezer burned parts before cooking the foods to avoid the dried out parts.
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Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.