Here’s What You Should Know About Eating Food with Freezer Burn

You'll be surprised to learn what causes those icy crystals on frozen foods and how to prevent them.

Freezer-burnYuliia Mazurkevych/Shutterstock
For those of us who lead busy lives (most everyone), the freezer can be a lifesaver when it comes to prepping food and getting dinner on the table. But what about when you pull out that container of mashed potatoes (or even that pint of ice cream you want for a midnight snack) and there’s a layer of dreaded freezer burn? We investigate what that icy crust is, when the food is still safe to eat, and how to avoid this problem in the future.

What is Freezer Burn?

Freezer burn occurs when your food dries out. Those ice crystals you see on your bulk pack of chicken or in your frozen leftovers is moisture that escaped from the food and turned into ice on the outside. (Here are some foods you should never freeze.) It happens for one of two reasons: Either you didn’t store your food properly, or your food has just been in the freezer for a long time. (Eventually, everything will start to turn to ice if left in there too long!)

Is it Safe?

But fear not: The sight of freezer burn shouldn’t have you sending the entire contents of your freezer into the trash. Because freezer burn is actually completely OK and safe to eat. You may not enjoy the taste or dried-out texture it gives your frozen pizza, but it has no impact on the quality of your food (phew!). (We bet you didn’t know you could freeze these foods!)

How to Prevent it From Happening

While it may be safe to consume, that crusty layer of ice crystals isn’t exactly what you’re aiming for. To prevent it from happening in the future, the No. 1 rule is to make sure you store all your food properly. That means sealing it in airtight containers (look for plastic and glass that are specifically freezer-safe) or wrapping it tightly with plastic wrap. Any air that gets in will speed up freezer burn. (Here are some myths about frozen food you need to stop believing.)

You should also make sure your freezer isn’t too cold or too packed full of groceries and containers. Leave space for air to circulate, and keep the temperature around zero. If you plan on freezing leftovers or a freshly baked casserole, make sure you let it cool completely before placing it in the freezer. Sealing it up when it’s still warm will cause steam and condensation to form on your food, which is freezer burn just waiting to happen.

Armed with those tips (and a few high-quality storage containers), you can expect a future free of freezer burn. Hello, deliciously defrosted dinner! (Don’t miss these storage tricks that will make your food last longer!)

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