Why Freezer Burn Happens—Plus 3 Ways to Prevent It
Learning how to avoid freezer burn is easy. Here's what causes freezer burn, how to prevent it, and how to salvage freezer-burned foods.
The freezer can be a great tool for reducing food waste. For one, it makes saving leftovers a breeze. Frozen fruit and veggies last much longer in the freezer, too—and they even retain nutrients better than fresh options. The only issue getting in the way of you and your delicious freezer food? Freezer burn.
Here's everything you need to know about what causes freezer burn, how to avoid freezer burn, and how to salvage freezer-burned foods to keep them out of the landfill.
First of All, What Is Freezer Burn?
Simply put, freezer burn occurs when frozen food is exposed to air. When the moisture evaporates, the food dehydrates, becoming dry and bland.
You can spot freezer burn pretty easily. You'll likely notice ice crystals covering the food, which occurs when moisture in the food escapes to the outside and freezes. Freezer burn also causes a change in color and texture, like discolored or shriveled meat and veggies.
Aside from making your food look unappetizing, freezer burn also changes the taste. Because the moisture has been removed from the food, it tends to be dry and flavorless.
What Causes Freezer Burn?
There are many things we do in the kitchen that can result in freezer burn. Most commonly, it happens when we don't use freezer-safe containers. It also occurs when we put food in the freezer before it's gotten the chance to cool down, like a big batch of stew or dinner leftovers.
Freezer-burned foods often get tossed out, adding to the food waste that winds up in the landfill. That waste releases greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The good news is preventing freezer burn is really easy. And when it does inevitably happen, there are some ways you can attempt to save the food before putting it in the trash or your compost bin.
How to Avoid Freezer Burn
Wondering how to avoid freezer burn? Here's what you should know to keep your food in tip-top shape.
1. Use Freezer-Safe Bags and Containers
The best way to avoid freezer burn is to reduce the food's exposure to air. Using freezer-safe bags and containers is a great place to start.
Opt for high-quality and durable reusable silicone bags, like those from Stasher. You can also use airtight glass containers. If you're using a silicone bag, remove as much air as possible before putting your food in the freezer.
2. Let Your Food Cool First
It's tempting to put your hot or warm leftovers in the freezer, but give them a chance to fully cool before doing so. Let your food chill in the fridge for a few hours, then put it in the freezer in an airtight container.
3. Eat Freezer Foods in a Timely Manner
Even if you use the tricks, your food will still eventually get freezer burned if you don't eat it in a timely manner. Aim to only stock your freezer with foods you can use within four months. Whenever you freeze leftovers, note the date so you can eat the oldest foods first.
Can You Salvage Freezer-Burned Foods?
You know now that freezer-burned foods often have an off-putting taste and texture. With that being said, you can still use them when you do so correctly.
Put freezer-burned fruit in smoothies, and veggies in stir-fries or sauces. Making a soup or stew is a great method, too: Combine meat and veggies with fresh ingredients in soup recipes. With plenty of spices and herbs, you'll forget you're dealing with freezer-burned foods in the first place.
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