Has this ever happened to you? You are at lunch planning meals out for the rest of the week. You don’t want to do any grocery shopping this week because the mortgage and the electric bill are getting paid, and grocery shopping is just not in this week’s budget. But you remember that you still have some food that you got from the last market day a couple of months ago in your spare freezer downstairs. You are pleased when you remember that your kids wrapped each cut of meat and put them into their own resealable plastic bags or containers. That way you can take only the portions you need to thaw and leave the rest. But when you open up the freezer, you discover that a lot of the food items have spots of heavy snow seemingly growing on the food. Oh no, freezer burn!
Have you ever wondered what causes freezer burn? Freezer burn can be bad enough that you can’t tell the difference between a rib eye and a pork chop unless you run it under cold water to remove the frost. If you don’t want to taste freezer burnt food, you will have to cut away the dehydrated, leathery part of the food, or throw it out if it’s bad enough. This frost is due to the water molecules of the food migrating towards the food edge then escaping from areas exposed to air. When this trapped moisture is exposed to air inside the bag, it freezes. Further dehydrating those exposed food surfaces. The longer food is left in the freezer, the more this will occur. There is nothing inherently wrong with these freezer burnt foods, other than the quality and taste will be adversely affected. Eventually the quality can be bad enough it should be discarded entirely.
What can be done to prevent freezer burn you ask? Well, there are a couple of steps that can be taken to slow down or even stop it from happening. First thing that you can do is set the temperature in your freezer to it’s normal setting of 0º (zero). Maintaining that temperature as steadily as possible will further aid in reduction, so open freezer door as infrequently and as briefly as possible. If you don’t have a lot of food items in your freezer, say less than 50% of the total volume, consider putting a clean milk jug or two filled near the top with water, inside freezer, make sure to leave room for water expansion into ice, otherwise the container may crack. Never put hot food items directly in the freezer either, allow them to cool before storing them. Now, the best thing we can do to prevent freezer burn on food is to seal the food as tightly as possible, while making sure as little of the food surface comes in direct contact with air, at the same time allowing for food expansion as it freezes. Food will always expand somewhat when it freezes because of the water molecules in the food. If using resealable bags, insert a straw to suck out as much air from the bag as possible. If freezing soups, sauces or similar, fill a container, while leaving enough room for expansion, and cover with plastic wrap to seal the surface from air, before sealing the lid. There are also food sealing devices that vacuum seal the item almost free of any air in the heavy-duty plastic, allowing you to store the food for the longest period without freezer burn.
It’s never a good thing when we find our food has been “burnt”. Do we just toss it out? Live with “that taste”? Slice away a good portion of the inedible food to save it? But if you follow our advice, you might not have to deal with it at all. You should be able to bite into that juicy steak and taste a well grilled piece of meat like you intended.