Opening your freezer and discovering a frosty layer covering your ice cream, meat, and other freezer items is incredibly frustrating. Most of the time, these items will need to be thrown out as even if you remove the ice, the food will likely not taste great if you go ahead and cook it. The icy layer on your food is called freezer burn.
So, what exactly is freezer burn? What causes it? And what are the solutions to deal with it? In this article, we hope to answer all those questions so you can avoid throwing food out.
What is freezer burn?
Freezer burn affects frozen food when it is exposed to air inside the freezer. When moisture in the food items in your freezer evaporates, it creates dry patches on the surface of the food. When your food items are affected by freezer burn, it adversely affects the food’s texture and taste and leaves it looking discolored and dehydrated. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to reverse the damage, so you’ll most likely need to throw the affected food out.
The easiest way to tell if food has freezer burn is to look for a layer of ice crystals. For meat items, look for gray or brown patches and/or leather-like texture. Fruit and vegetables will likely become shriveled, caused by moisture loss. Any of these signs indicate your food has been damaged by freezer burn.
When it comes to taste, freezer-burnt food will have a slightly off taste and sometimes smell like plastic when cooked. Unfortunately, you can’t just cut off the freezer burn and cook your food; the whole food item will be adversely affected.
What causes freezer burn?
Freezer burn is caused by frozen food encountering excess air inside the freezer. As mentioned above, freezer burn is created by the moisture within the food evaporating.
Several causes make freezer burn occur. Here are some of the most common:
- Not storing your food properly. If frozen food is not wrapped or sealed correctly, air can get inside the packaging, which will cause moisture to escape, resulting in freezer burn. When storing food in your freezer, use moisture-resistant packaging, such as plastic wrap, aluminum foil, airtight containers, or freezer bags. This will help stop air from coming into contact with your food.
- Your freezer temperature. If the temperature in your freezer is constantly going up and down, the food in your freezer can dehydrate quicker, causing freezer burn. The most likely reason this occurs is when the freezer door is opened frequently or if your freezer has a faulty component. If you think this is happening to your freezer, you must ensure the door seals are not damaged and try not to open the freezer door too often. If those simple fixes don’t work, you will need to get a technician to inspect your freezer.
- Storing food too long. If you store food items in your freezer for too long, freezer burn is more likely to occur. This is due to the packaging deteriorating over time which causes more air to come in contact with your food. To prevent this from happening, check the storage instructions on the packaging of your food items.
Solutions to stop freezer burn
You can take a few simple steps to prevent freezer burn and keep your frozen food safe. These are our top tips for preventing freezer burn:
- Use proper packaging. The number one way to prevent freezer burn is to use proper packaging when storing food. If you don’t store food in the packaging they are brought in, cover food items with a quality packaging material like plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or use freezer bags and containers. Always ensure there is no air in the packaging and that there aren’t any gaps in the packaging that air can get through. If you’re not sure how to store a specific item in the freezer, check the packaging for instructions.
- Remove excess air. Always remove excess air from the bag or container you are storing food in. This can be done by squeezing out excess air, or if you have one, you can use a vacuum sealer. Removing excess air will prevent freezer burn by reducing the amount of air your food comes in contact with.
- Double wrap if necessary. If you are storing expensive items in your freezer, like high-quality cuts of meat, it’s an excellent item to consider double wrapping. This can be done by covering the food with plastic wrap and then placing it in a freezer bag or covering it in a layer of foil.
- Label your food. Another solution to freezer burn is to label every item you put in your freezer to ensure it doesn’t stay there too long. Storing food for too long is a significant cause of freezer burn, so tracking how long it has been in there is a great way to stop it.
- Monitor the temperature. It’s also a good idea to ensure the temperature in your freezer is consistently at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius). You should also ensure your freezer door isn’t left open unnecessarily to prevent the temperature from fluctuating.