Can You Eat Freezer-Burnt Food?

Published Categorized as Food
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You can eat anything you want to. The real question here is, do you really want to? Here’s the answer when it comes to freezer-burnt food.

Freezing is the best way to store food safely and efficiently for months, whether you want to preserve the flavors of summer for the cold seasons or save money by buying meat, fruits, and vegetables in bulk and at a discount.

Frozen food stays safe to eat indefinitely since freezer temperature (0°F/-18°C) puts the activity of spoilage and disease-causing bacteria on pause. But the convenience of freezing comes with a trade-off, and that trade-off is a reduction in the quality of your food in several ways.

One of the trade-offs of freezing is freezer burn, the deterioration in appearance, aroma, and flavor that occurs when moisture escapes from food in the freezer and gets replaced by pockets of air.

Freezer burn is a common problem when storing food in the home freezer—especially if the food wasn’t properly sealed or was frozen for too long.

If you have a freezer, which you probably do since you’re reading this article, sooner or later you will face freezer burn. And if you have never had to deal with freezer burn, you will think to yourself, “What am I supposed to do with this freezer-burnt food?”

Well, let’s just say we have both good and bad news for you:

The good news is that you can thaw, cook, and eat it. The bad news is that you probably don’t want to, at least not all of it. Read on below to find out why.

What Is Freezer Burn?

Is it just me, or is freezer burn one of those things celebrity chefs and cookbook authors like to mention, always assuming that we know exactly what they’re talking about?

If you’ve seen freezer burn but you don’t know what it is—and you’re too shy, squeamish, embarrassed, or INSERT ADJECTIVE HERE to ask—here’s everything you need to know about it (and nothing you don’t).

Freezer burn is what happens when loosely wrapped foods are in constant contact with the dry air circulating in your freezer. As a result, the exposed parts of these foods dry out, turn white, gray, or yellow, develop an unpleasant odor, and become effectively tasteless.

Any food that contains enough moisture can suffer from freezer burn, including red meat, game meat, poultry, fish and seafood, even fruits and vegetables. The result is almost always the same—parts of the food lose so much quality that throwing them away is the only thing left to do.

Why Does Food Get Freezer-Burnt?

Okay, so you now know what freezer burn is. But do you know why it happens?

For freezer burn to occur, two things are required: First, water must escape from your food in a process called sublimation. Second, it must be replaced by air, which then triggers a decay process called oxidation.

Basically, freezer burn is caused by a process called sublimation, in which ice crystals on the surface of frozen food turn directly into vapor without passing through the liquid phase first.

The ice crystals get replaced by air molecules, which triggers the chemical process of oxidation. Oxidation is when food deteriorates due to contact with oxygen, usually developing off-odors and off-flavors.

Can You Eat Food With Freezer Burn?

Technically, you can eat freezer-burnt parts of your food. They’re not unsafe, and they’ve lost no more nutrients than the parts of the food that haven’t been damaged by freezer burn.

If you’re worried about the safety of the freezer-burnt food in your freezer, you really shouldn’t be. Freezer-burnt food is not unsafe, as long as it was good when you froze it and thawed properly.

Do you really want to eat the freezer-burnt parts of your food? See, this is the question to ask here. And the answer, even if you happen to be the most frugal person on earth who absolutely hates food waste, is almost always “no.”

The quality of freezer-burnt food is the real problem here—not its safety. The parts of your food that have been damaged by freezer burn are dry and leathery. They smell funny and taste bad, or at least not as they should.

What to Do If Your Food Has Freezer Burn

Freezer-burnt food is generally safe to eat, but it’s also unpalatable.

When in doubt, cut off the parts of your food that got damaged by freezer burn and eat the rest.

You can cut the freezer-burnt parts before or after cooking. While it makes no difference from a food safety perspective, your food will cook faster and more evenly if you do this before cooking.

How to Prevent Freezer Burn

Fortunately, preventing freezer burn is simple: just make sure your food is airtight before you put it in the freezer. By reducing air exposure, you’re minimizing the likelihood of freezer burn.

Wrap your food tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, making sure that are no cracks or tears. If you’re storing it in freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible and double-check that the bag is zipped shut.

Use appropriately sized food storage containers. Generally, smaller and shallower containers are better; the container should be large enough to fit the food you’re storing in it, but not so large that there’s still a lot of air inside.

If you’re serious about food storage and preservation, you should get a vacuum sealer. Vacuum-seal bags don’t allow air in or out; they help you ensure that your food retains its best quality for the longest time in the freezer.

In Conclusion

Yes, you can eat freeze-burnt foods, whether they’re red meat, game meat, poultry, fish and seafood, fruits, or vegetables.

But you probably want to cut off the parts that suffered from freezer burnt because they don’t look as good, don’t smell as good, and definitely don’t taste as good as you and the rest of your family expect them to.

Next time, make sure food is in an airtight container before you put it in the freezer. That way, you may be able to avoid freezer burn altogether.

By Dim Nikov

Cooking for family and friends, one dish at a time. I love to make food that's delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare.

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