Freezer-Burned Food Safety

While Freezer Burn Is Not a Health Issue, You Can Prevent It

Frozen salmon steaks on ice cube
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Is it safe to eat freezer-burned food? The quick answer is yes. Freezer burn is simply the result of air coming into contact with food, and while the color changes and the dry spots it creates may not look appetizing, freezer-burned food is, in fact, completely safe to eat.

All foods get freezer burn 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.

If you adhere to the following tips, your food will stay fresher longer.

Wrap Foods Correctly

Remove foods from their store packaging if you don't plan to use the food right away—especially when it comes to meat, poultry, and fish. 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 better suited for the job. There are specific steps you should take to repackage foods for the freezer

If you have a regular butcher that you purchase raw food from, see if they will wrap your order in freezer paper.

Use Freezer-Safe Containers

Not all food storage containers are designed for freezer use. Freezer-safe containers are those that 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 aren't up to the task. Air will end up getting in and they're just too thin to protect against the cold. The same is true for regular plastic bags. Only use bags, jars, and containers that are labeled for freezer use. While they're more expensive, in the long run, you'll save money by not throwing out freezer burnt food.

Watch for Air Trapped 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.

Let Foods Cool Before Freezing

If you let hot food cool down you can ensure that you're not trapping steam inside the packaging. Steam is not friendly to frozen food—it ends up turning into ice crystals. Also, if food is too hot when you put it in the freezer, other foods start to thaw out.

Tips and Warnings

If the damaged area is small, cut it off before cooking to preserve the quality of your food product. That said, if the damage is extensive, it's best to toss the food. While the food will be safe to eat, the quality will be poor.

Different foods have different shelf lives in the freezer and last longer in the freezer than others. While bacon will last only one to two months, chicken and turkey will last up to one year. Also, foods often develop freezer burn when they get pushed to the back of the freezer and are forgotten. Start a freezer inventory list to stay on top of what you have on hand so that you can plan meals around it—and reach for the oldest frozen product first. And label everything that goes into the freezer including the name and the date the food was frozen.