Is It Safe to Eat Freezer Burned Food?

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Freezer Burned Ham. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Question: Is It Safe to Eat Freezer Burned Food?

Answer:

Freezer burn is simply the result of air coming into contact with food, and while the color changes and dry spots it creates may not look appetizing, freezer burned food is, in fact, completely safe to eat.

If the damaged area is small, cut it off before or after cooking to preserve the quality of your meal. If the damage is extensive, consider tossing the food.

While safe to eat, the quality will be poor.

Source: USDA

Prevent Freezer Burn

All foods get freezer burned eventually, but most foods should maintain their quality in the freezer for six months to a year. If you find that your frozen foods are developing freezer burn sooner than that, it's time to do a bit of investigating to root out the cause. Things to consider:

  • How foods are being wrapped. If you don't plan to use something right away, it's a good idea to remove foods from their store packaging, so you can wrap them better. This is certainly true when it comes to meats. The thin cellophane used to wrap meat isn't thick enough to keep air from getting in. Freezer paper or a freezer bag is much more suited to the job. Here's how meat should be repackaged for the freezerTip: Often times the butcher will wrap your order in freezer paper, if you ask. That'll save you the work of having to repackage everything when you get home.
  • What types of containers you're using in the freezer. Not all food storage containers are designed for freezer use. The ones that are are made of thicker plastic or glass. So, while it may be tempting to reuse grocery store packaging to freeze foods, these types of containers just aren't up to the task. Ditto for regular plastic bags. Only use bags, jars and containers that are labeled for freezer use.
  • Whether you're trapping air in containers. Air is the enemy of frozen foods. If you aren't squeezing the air out of your freezer bags before you stick them in the freezer, you're setting yourself up for early freezer burn. This is why vacuum sealers have become so popular in recent years.

Still not sure why your foods are getting freezer burned so quickly? Check out this article to explore more possibilities.

Make the Most of Your Freezer

Some foods last longer in the freezer than others. Use this chart to familiarize yourself with the shelf life of frozen foods.

Often times foods become freezer burned when they get pushed to the back of the freezer and forgotten. Start a freezer inventory list to stay on top of what you have on hand, so you can plan meals around it. And make sure everything that goes into the freezer gets labeled with its name and the date it was frozen. Things start to look the same in the freezer after a while. Here are some free printable freezer labels that you can use.

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