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.

Read on to learn specific safety tips related to freezer burn.

Wrap Foods Correctly

Remove foods from their store packaging if you don't plan to use them right away so that you can wrap them better. This is certainly true for meat. 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 ask, oftentimes the butcher will wrap your order in freezer paper, saving you the work of having to repackage everything when you get home.

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 just aren't up to the task.

The same goes for regular plastic bags. Use only bags, jars, and containers that are labeled for freezer use.

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.

Tips and Warnings

If the damaged area is small, cut it off before or after cooking to preserve the quality of your meal. If the damage is extensive, toss the food. While safe to eat, the quality will be poor.

Some foods last longer in the freezer than others: Different foods have different shelf lives in the freezer beyond which they tend to develop freezer burn.  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 label everything that goes into the freezer including the name and the date the food was frozen. Things start to look the same in the freezer after a while.