Freezer burned food is safe to eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, but it neither tastes nor looks good. To avoid it, keep all your food tightly wrapped so moisture stays in and air stays out. This saves you both money and frustration and keeps your family's taste buds happy.
Frozen dinners usually have a date printed somewhere on the package that says they're best eaten before that date. While your food will be safe to eat as long as it's kept frozen, the longer it stays in the freezer, the more susceptible it is to freezer burn. If you won't be eating frozen dinners for a long time, choose packages with "best before" dates that are far in the future. Companies that manufacture frozen dinners optimize their packaging to avoid freezer burn. As long as you don't open them before freezing, they should keep well.
If possible, use a vacuum sealer to store homemade meals in bags or vacuum containers. Vacuum sealers suck most of the air out of the package in which you store your food, which helps prevent liquid molecules from escaping. Most foods contain some moisture, and the escape of this moisture over time is what causes freezer burn. The more exposure to air that the surface of your food has, the more likely it is to develop freezer burn. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, squeeze as much air as you can out of whatever freezer-safe container you use. Also, choose containers with airtight lids.
Large, Solid Foods
Wrap any large, solid foods tightly in at least two layers of plastic wrap. Double check your wrapping to make sure that all gaps where air can get in are sealed. Some foods that this method works for include breads, meat, pastries and other desserts. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, raw meat freezes better than cooked meat, because raw meat inherently has more moisture.
According to Food Safety and Inspection Service's safe food-handling guidelines, your freezer should store food at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. If your freezer is old, and you're not sure that its internal thermometer is accurate, have it tested and calibrated by a qualified technician. This service may cost a little money, but it will save you much more money in the future by helping ensure that your frozen foods stay properly frozen. This will also help prevent freezer burn, as foods that cycle between thawing and freezing usually develop that problem.
Like This Article? Let Us Know!
- "The Professional Chef," The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
- "ServSafe Coursebook, Fourth Edition," NRA Educational Foundation; 2006
- Library of Congress Everyday Mysteries: What is Freezer Burn?
- ITStock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images