Not everyone has enough time and energy to go through the motions of lovingly preparing home-cooked meals every single time.
This is why people resort to ready-to-eat meals or microwaveable dinners. Even for someone like me who loves cooking, preparing nutritious and home-cooked meals for my family can be a challenge especially during the workweek.
This is where the freezer comes in.What I usually do is figure out my menu beforehand and prepare almost all the meals during the weekend.
This way, I will need minimal prep time during the week. Coming home from work, I can easily heat up what I’ve already cooked.
For the kids’ lunch to bring to school, it’s also easy to thaw and pack. But this requires some flexibility because not all things go according to plan.
Even if I’ve planned the whole week impeccably, there are times when I end up with more food on my freezer than it can handle.
Sometimes, I discover something I placed there weeks (or even a month!) ago and end up throwing it because it has discolored.
Instead of saving and making things more efficient, I end up wasting food. But that’s before I discovered that this is simply a case of freezer burn.
The food hasn’t actually gone bad, and I simply have to adjust the way I pack it. But what is freezer burn exactly?
Freezer Burn Basics
Freezer burn is the general term used to describe the grayish-brown dry spots that manifest in frozen food, often of a leathery texture.
This happens when the food is not secured in air-tight packaging because the discoloration is a result of the dehydration and oxidation that occur.
Even if you haven’t opened the package at all, freezer burn can occur because of the temperature fluctuations in the freezer. Freezer burn also happens when you see ice crystals forming in the outer surface of frozen food.
You also have to remember that no type of food is exempt from freezer burn and it can literally affect anything – from chicken stock and ice cream to steaks and vegetables.
While freezer burn makes the food look like you don’t want to eat it anymore, it’s important to remember that it technically does nothing to spoil the food.
It will still be edible, and what people do is just remove the part with the freezer burn and consume the rest.
You have to manage your expectations though because depending on how large the freezer burn is, the texture, as well as the taste of the food, may have changed.
Preventing Freezer Burn
Even if freezer burn doesn’t spoil the food, we would want to avoid it as much as we can. Knowing how to prevent freezer burn will allow the problem not to arise in the first place, and this is the goal. Take note of these tips:
- Take note of what you put inside your freezer.
What I’ve found really helpful is having a piece of paper outside the freezer, and this serves as some sort of inventory that tells me what’s in it and when I put it in.
This may seem like such a simple solution but it helps me keep track of what I put in and take out.
If you’re using identical containers, it’s also good to label what you put in the freezer so that you don’t have to open these containers every single time.
- Seal your food properly.
The main cause of freezer burn is faulty sealing, so just makes sure that you use air-tight containers when you place food in your freezer.
Don’t use normally plastic bags that leave room for air and moisture to come in.
If you can, use a vacuum sealer to make sure the food is preserved.
- Maintain your freezer’s temperature.
The freezer works because it maintains a certain temperature and keeps the food in that temperature.
If you keep opening the freezer unnecessarily, you ruin this balance.
Make sure it’s maintained at freezing temperature, especially if you have a self-defrost freezer, which is must more prone to temperature fluctuations.
Other Useful Tips
You may have all the tips to prevent freezer burn, but you should also not overdo using your freezer space.
This means that you have to be very conscious about what’ in your freezer, taking note of expiry dates and when you cooked it.
Sometimes people get carried away and leave food in the freezer for insanely long periods of time.
Just remember that the freezer is there to help make food preservation and preparation easier. The fresher it is, the better.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Q: How do I know if it’s freezer burn?
A: Freezer burn usually makes the food look grayish or appear with brown spots that give you the impression that it’s spoiled and no longer good to eat.
This is more common in cooked food like soups or other dishes compared to raw food that you’ve just placed in the freezer for too long.
Q: Is food that has freezer burn safe to eat?
A: While it no longer looks as appetizing, freezer burn doesn’t really spoil the food.
The reason you placed it in the freezer in the first place is to preserve the food over a period of time.
It’s actually still safe to eat, although understandably not everyone will want to do so.
The only thing you should remember is that freezer burn somehow alters the nutritional value of these dishes.
Q: What is the best way to prevent freezer burn?
A: There are many little ways and lifestyle changes that you can do to make sure you don’t get freezer burned food again.
However, if you’re really serious about it, you should learn how to vacuum seal your food before putting it on the freezer. Using a vacuum sealer is a sure way to preserve your food the right way.
Now that you know what freezer burn is and how to prevent it, you shouldn’t panic (as I did) the first time you see it.
But even before you do, you can follow the useful tips to make sure that you don’t even encounter the problem in the first place. Happy cooking!