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How Can I Avoid Freezer Burn?

Air needs to be able to circulate in a freezer.
Thick, airtight bags will prevent freezer burn.
Frozen beef.
Sliced frozen meat.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Mitev, Rachael Ludwick, Ra3Rn, n/a
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Freezer burn happens when the outside of a food loses so much moisture that it essentially becomes freeze dried. Although it is not harmful, it does make food taste dull and unpleasant. Generally, when food has been freezer burned, you can simply trim the offending portion off and use the rest. Avoiding the problem to begin with, however, is a much more preferable solution. There are a number of ways in which you can prevent it, ranging from how you pack foods to how you organize the freezer.

One of the most important things you can do is to organize your freezer properly. Make sure to leave at least a hand's width of room around the top and sides of the freezer so that air can circulate, keeping the temperature in the freezer stable. If the freezer has a shelf, leave room around it as well. Keeping the temperatures even throughout the freezer will reduce repeated freezing and thawing, which can cause freezer burn. While you organize your freezer, throw out food that is old, and make sure that all of the frozen items are properly labeled.

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Shelf life in the freezer varies, depending on the food. Cooked meats, for example, last around three months, while uncooked and well packaged meats can last up to six months. Although old foods are unlikely to pose a health risk, they will lose much of their flavor. By labeling packages with their contents and date, you can keep track of what is in the freezer and how long it has been there. This will encourage you to use up foods before they go bad.

Packaging is also crucial. You want the packaging for frozen foods to be thick and airtight to prevent freezer burn. Many companies actually sell products specifically designed for freezing, such as thick sealable bags, heavy plastic containers, and freezer safe glass. When you pack foods in these containers, make sure to leave room for liquids like soup to expand, and take the time to press air out of bags. Bags can be frozen flat and stacked, or you can use uniformly sized square plastic or glass for space efficiency.

Small portions also tend to freeze better, since they cool down more quickly. You should also try to avoid putting hot food directly into the freezer, as it will elevate the freezer temperature. Put the food in the refrigerator to cool first, leaving the lid off or ajar so that moisture will not collect in the container. Once it has cooled, the food can be frozen for future use.

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Discuss this Article

giddion
Post 9

Some people think that if frozen food comes in a cardboard box with a plastic bag inside, simply shutting the box is enough to protect the food from freezer burn. I used to believe this, until my fish sticks and french fries developed freezer burn after only a couple of weeks.

So, I started pulling the plastic bag of food out of the box and stuffing it down inside a big ziplock freezer bag. If there were any cooking instructions on the box, I would cut that portion off and tape it to the outside of the bag. I haven't gotten any freezer burn on my foods since.

Oceana
Post 8

I have a freezer and fridge in one, but I was having a hard time fitting all my frozen food into the freezer atop the fridge. Since my husband and I both worked full-time jobs, we tended to eat more precooked frozen foods than fresh foods, and our freezer was starting to overflow.

We decided to buy a separate standalone freezer. Now, we can store weeks worth of food in there without worrying about lack of air circulation or freezer burn.

shell4life
Post 7

@SarahSon – I know what you mean. I have resorted to using sandwich bags when I ran out of freezer bags, and they didn't protect the food very well at all.

I like to buy the kind of freezer bags that have zip locks on them. That takes the guesswork out of shutting the bag.

When I use the kind that you just press shut, I have a hard time telling whether or not they have sealed all the way. So, I only buy the zippered kind now, because it protects very well against freezer burn.

feasting
Post 6

I have eaten frozen foods that tasted like the frost on the inside of the freezer before, but I never knew it was called “freezer burn.” I didn't know that I needed to keep things covered up in the freezer.

I had eaten half of an ice cream sundae that came in a foam cup from a fast food restaurant. I didn't want to waste it, so I put it in the freezer with only the plastic top to cover it, and this had a giant hole in the top for a spoon.

The next day, it was frozen solid, rock hard, and covered in what looked like ice mold. I scraped the fuzzy ice off, but the flavor and the texture had already been ruined.

SarahSon
Post 5

One of the best things you can do to avoid freezer burn is make sure you store your food in products that are specifically for the freezer.

Sometimes when I am out of freezer bags, I will use whatever I have on hand, and have noticed these never work as well.

The food doesn't stay fresh as long and freezer burn happens quickly. All food that is kept in the freezer for too long will probably get freezer burn eventually, but it helps to avoid it as long as you can.

It doesn't seem to matter what kind of meat it is, I get freezer burn with chicken just as quickly as I do with beef or pork.

golf07
Post 4

My husband likes to hunt so we usually have a freezer full of meat. I always make sure we write a date on everything we put in the freezer.

While eating meat with freezer burn may not hurt you, it sure doesn't taste as good. If that was all there was to eat, I would eat what was there and be happy to have some meat.

It is hard to eat old meat that has some freezer burn on it when there is meat that is fresh and tastes much better.

When I clean out my freezer and see meat that has been in there for a few years, I don't even look to see if it has any freezer burn, and toss it out no matter what.

burcinc
Post 3

@fify-- Your freezer should be at zero for best freezing. And are you leaving enough room for circulation?

I'm not saying that this is what you do but my neighbor was complaining about freezer burn all the time. I saw her freezer and it was jam packed! You couldn't remove anything without the rest falling out! You can't expect good circulation if you don't leave plenty of space.

The other thing I discovered randomly is if you freeze in glass, it works a lot better. Even if you get freezer burn, you don't get the freezer burn taste when food is packed in glass.

fify
Post 2

@turkay1-- I agree! My sister-in-law bought a vacuum sealing kit and she loves it! She said she hasn't had any freezer burn since she started using it. It's kind of pricey apparently, but it's worth the cost when you think about all the food you throw away because of freezer burn. I'm considering getting one too.

I understand that not everyone would want to invest in one though. Maybe the real problem is that the temperature needed to freeze foods is too high? I usually don't have problems with frozen vegetables but freezer burn on chicken seems inevitable.

I tried turning down my freezer temperature but the ice started melting so that didn't work. I don't understand why they can't make freezers that work properly so we wouldn't have to keep spending money like this.

candyquilt
Post 1

I used to have a freezer burn problem before I bought a vacuum sealer for my freezer bags. I think freezer burn happens when there is room left in the container or bag with the food. So if you pack it without air, which is kind of hard to do without a vacuum sealer, you can avoid freezer burn.

I also feel that time is of importance. I notice that even if I don't use a vacuum sealer, if I use up something I put in the freezer in a couple of weeks, it's absolutely fine. But if I thaw it after keeping it in the freezer for months and months, it's usually freeze burned.

Following these two things, I've been able to prevent freezer burn with my frozen pre-packed meals. I live by myself and freeze left over food for later all the time. So it's great to be able to grab a meal from my freezer without the freezer burn taste.

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