Is It Safe to Eat Freezer-Burned Food?

Everything you need to know about freezer-burned food

Is It Safe to Eat Freezer-Burned Food

We all know that consuming spoiled or expired food will not end up well for our stomach and health. Bad feeling and nausea – this is the best that can happen if we are lucky not to get food poisoning.

Besides, throwing away too much food is not good for our budget, too.

But when it comes to food burned with the frost, everything seems not so clear. Is it still safe toe at or not?

What is the possible aftermath of doing it? Will freezer-burned food make you sick?

In this article, let’s try to figure out how things are regarding this issue.

What Is Freezer Burn? Is There a Way to Prevent It?

Before we dig into the problem, let’s clarify what in fact this phenomenon is and find out whether the way exists to prevent the food from spoiling even in the safest place for it in the world.

Freezer burn is a specific condition that products gain when being exposed to the influence of frost for a long, too long time. Because of too long-lasting exposure to the low temperature, products become dehydrated and oxidated, all because of the air is still reaching the food easily.

Is freezer burn bad for food? Nope, it’s not as this phenomenon doesn’t cause any pathogenic environment so the food is actually not rotten or off. 

Most often, freezer burn takes place when food has not been properly and tightly enough covered or sealed when being put to the freezer.

How to Recognize It

freezer burn on steak
Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

The most obvious and unmistakable signs of freezer burn and food spoilage caused to the food are leathery spots, sometimes grey and sometimes brownish, that appear on the surface of the products, as well as tiny white ice crystals on the food’s surface. 

Sometimes some discoloration may take place, too.

These are the general and most common signs of a burn caused by the frost that can tell you that the food was exposed to dehydration.

However, different kinds of products may also have their own specific signs that we will talk about below.

A Bit About Safety Issue. Is Freezer-Burned Food Safe to Eat?

freezer-burnt hamburger
Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

This question bothers many people as quite a few of us know for sure whether such food is still consumable or not. 

Well, you can sigh with relief now, ladies and gentlemen, as frostbite food is absolutely safe to eat unless some creepy expired pieces can be found in your freezer (which is hardly possible, we hope).

Since freezer burn is merely a loss of moisture by nature, there is nothing to worry about. It will not cause any harm to your health because no harmful bacteria are produced during this process.

The only thing that will suffer from the freezer burn is the products’ taste. So, in order to keep the freezer-burned products still tasty, we would advise you to cut off the burned parts before you defrost the whole piece and cook it.

Eating Freezer-Burned Food. Specifics and Nuances

reezer burn affect the fish

Of course, we have already figured out that freezer-burned products are not dangerous to your health but still it would be good to know how to define the freezer burn on different kinds of products so that there will not be any mistake.

Freezer-burned chicken

Is it possible to define that the chicken meat got frostbitten? In fact, it is. If it was staying frozen for several days being improperly wrapped or packed, it will get a freezer burn anyway.

The signs of freezer burn on chicken are white or white-gray spots on the meat and they look dry. If the chicken was stored being cut in pieces, look for those marks on the edges of the pieces first of all.

They will be easy to spot both on leatherless chicken and on the chicken’s skin so don’t worry, you won’t miss them.

If the freezer burn is old enough, there may also be tiny ice crystals.

Can you cook freezer-burned chicken meat after unfreezing it? Definitely, only ensure that you delete the burnt areas first.

And also, don’t stress too much: freezer burn on the chicken meat doesn’t make it less safe to eat!

How to find freezer burn on shrimp
Photo by Arina Ertman on Unsplash

How to find freezer burn on shrimp

It is a bit different when it comes to the shrimp to spot the freezer burn as this seafood is already covered with quite a thick coat of ice to prevent it from spoiling.

However, freezer burn can be spotted on the shrimp, too. Search for white opaque discolored areas on the ice coating, this will be the sign of the frostbitten shrimp.

And again, it doesn’t mean that the food is bad. It can still be cooked only the meat can be a bit too hard.

The signs of freezer burn on the ground beef

Like any freezer-burnt meat, ground beef has visible and clear signs of it. Greyish or brownish areas that look overdried mean that the meat was frostbitten. 

To cook it, delete the damaged sections first.

How to Define a freezer burn on steak

How to Define a freezer burn on steak
Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash

Freezer-burnt steak, just like any other kind of meat, has its significant and specific signs of being frostbitten. 

Whenever you notice grey or brownish spots on its surface and those spots will look too dry, be sure that these are the signs of a burn for sure. 

The meat will still remain edible, only ensure that all the burnt areas will be cut off before the meat will be cooked.

How does a freezer-burnt hamburger look?

Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

If you have some hamburgers frozen for further use and you suspect that some of them – or all of them – were freezer-burnt, you’d better do the following. 

To say that the hamburger got freezer burn, take a closer look at it after it was taken out of the freezer. If you notice that the surface is covered with tiny white crystals, then it is the sign that the hamburger was freezer-burnt.

The best thing to do in such a case is to discard it because it will not taste the same good as the fresh one anyway.

How does freezer burn affect the fish?

If you bought the fish that has already been frozen, then be aware that the layer of ice protects the fish from spoiling and from being freezer-burnt, too! However, if there are noticeable white opaque spots on the icy cover, it may mean that the fish is slightly freezer-burnt. 

freezer burn on steak
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

In case you notice the ice crystals on its surface, then it means that the fish was being exposed to the burn caused by the frost for quite a long time.

The same signs are true for the fresh fish that was frozen at home.

How to Prevent Food From Freezer Burn

Of course, everyone would like to keep their food tasty and edible for as long as it’s possible without all those freezer burns, etc. 

There is, actually, a way to avoid this unpleasant incident.

  • Ensure that all the food that you put to the freezer is properly wrapped, covered and sealed. No air must get inside the package or a tank!
  • Also, take into account that freezing dishes that are still hot or not cooled enough will increase the risk of freezer burn in many times. So, before freezing some soup, make sure it’s of room temperature or cooler.
freezer-burnt hamburger
Photo by Dana DeVolk on Unsplash

To make the cooling faster, put the dish into the sink filled with ice and leave it there until it’s cool. And remember that cooked food must be frozen as soon as possible. If more than two hours have passed between the time the dish was cooked and the time it was frozen, the health risk increases significantly! 

  • Don’t keep the freezer wide open too long. Open and close it as quickly as you can when taking something out or putting in.
  • Storing food in the freezer for too long can also be a reason why it gets freezer-burnt. When being exposed to the frost for too long, food loses too much water which leads to dehydration and, gradually, to the deep freezer burn. 
  • If, after following all these rules, your food still gets freezer-burned, check the freezer. If it’s not at zero degrees or below, it can be the reason why it frostbites.

Useful Tips to Remember When Freezing Food

freezer burn

What can be easier than tossing a packet or two to the freezer for further consumption? That’s how many of us think when it comes to freezing some leftover casserole or other cooked food or even some raw products like meat or fish, for example.

However, freezing is not that simple process at all!

It has its specifics that one needs to know to avoid the food being freezer-burnt after a while.

  • When freezing liquids, remember to use the airtight tanks and leave enough space because, while freezing, liquids tend to expand which can lead to the tank to crack or even break.
  • Use vacuum packages and tanks, like that, you will be absolutely sure that no air will get inside.
  • When freezing solid food, there is no need to leave extra space between the food and the lid of the tank. When doing it, you will let air inside which can lead to the freezer burn. Instead, cover the food with a foil or cellophane and only then attach the lid.
  • When using freezer-friendly bags, ensure that the food inside is covered super tightly and that no air is left inside, too. It will reduce the number of ice crystals that will sooner or later appear on the food.
  • As you already know, freezer burn especially tends to appear on the food that has been stored frozen for a long time.

So, if you know that the food you are going to freeze will be in this condition for long, you’d better use some additional wrapping to protect it from the freezer burn in the future.

food that has been stored
Photo by ?? Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

As an example, use an aluminum foil to wrap the food that has been stored in a plastic wrap already.

  • Improperly working freezer is often also a cause of freezer burns. Make its life easier and don’t load it with food from the bottom to the top! The more space it is in the freezing camera, the less the risk for the food to get a freezer burn.
  • Always keep several items in the freezer. The food that is already frozen helps the “newcomers” to freeze faster.
  • Just in terms of caution, never freeze food, especially liquids, in a glass container. Glass is not a frost-resistant material and it will most likely crack or break after being exposed to the influence of frost for too long.
  • Be organized when freezing! Different products can stay frozen for a different amount of time. Some can be frozen longer and some will get spoiled of freezer-burnt sooner.

To avoid it, memorize or make a list of products in the freezer starting from those that must be consumed first. Write the name of the food or product, indicate the date it was put to the freezer and set the expiry date by which it must be eaten.

It will allow you to always know which products must be consumed earlier.

Now that you already know how to define the signs of freezer burn on different kinds of food and you are aware that this phenomenon is not harmful neither to the food nor to your health, be sure that you always tightly and properly seal and cover all the products that you are going to freeze.

Avoid freezing warm and hot food, too, as it is the fastest way for it to get freezer-burnt.

After following all the suggested rules and tips, you will notice that the amount of freezer-burnt food has reduced significantly and you will finally stop discarding too much instead of enjoying delicious dishes with your family and friends.

Be careful and attentive, store your products prudently, and your food will remain tasty and fresh longer!

Written by
Elisa is a passionate cook who will advise you on healthy and delicious food topics! With her help, you will discover how to properly store and freeze food, as well as learn important nuances about preserving vitamins in your meals to make them stay nutritious.
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