What Is Freezer Burn and How Can You Avoid It?
It all comes down to packaging.
Whether you’re going for a pint of ice cream or a container of leftover soup, you’ve probably dealt with freezer burn. The patches of ice coat the surface of wonkily packaged frozen food indiscriminately, leaving the items with a distinct flavor of what can only be described as, well, freezer burnt. But you don’t have to live like this. If you have the right tools and a bit of extra time when you’re packing up food, freezer burn is actually completely easy to avoid.
Watch: Foods You Should Never Freeze
So, What’s Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn is when frozen food gets damaged by a lack of moisture as well as overexposure to air due to improper storage. Technically, water evaporates from food as it freezes, and since it’s in such a chilly environment that water turns quickly from solid ice into into gas, which presents as discolored food or areas of lacy ice (or both). Freezer burn will turn meat an off-putting grayish-brown color and make vegetables wrinkly and dry. Though it may have a slight bottom-of-the-ice-bucket flavor, food that was freezer burned and then thawed is perfectly safe to eat.
Still, why would you want to eat slightly freezer burned food if you don’t have to? And you really don’t. You simply need to learn how to properly package food before freezing it. For that, you can use a number of items, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen:
Foil, Plastic Wrap, and Freezer Paper
A tight wrap in foil, plastic, or (duh) freezer paper are the best solution for avoiding freezer burn on irregularly shaped foods like loaves of bread, cuts of meat and fish, and large sections of cake. It’s never a bad idea to do a double layer of wrap to ensure no areas of the food are left uncovered.
Zip-Top Freezer Bags
Resealable plastic bags of any size, but especially the 1- or 2-gallon size, are super helpful when it comes to storing food. You can fill them with anything from stock to pumpkin puree to sliced bananas and they’ll take the shape of whatever you freeze in. You can place filled bags on a sheet pan and freeze them flat, or place them in pint containers and freeze them into the shape of the container so you don’t have to buy more. They also work great as a secondary shield-slash-catchall for items frozen in aluminum, paper, or plastic wraps. Just make sure to buy bags labeled “freezer,” not just “storage,” as those are thicker and designed to last longer. Though it’s sort of a pain, you can also easily hand-wash these bags for reuse.
Plastic Pint and Quart Containers
Plastic containers’ uniform sizes and shapes make them ideal for freezer storage. Everything you’d store in a zip-top bag can be stored in plastic containers, but bonus: they’re much easier to wash.
Certain Glass Jars or Containers
Another great way to store sliced produce and liquids is to use glass jars. Some glass like Mason, Ball, and Pyrex are made to withstand high heat and freezing cold temperatures. However, that doesn’t make them completely foolproof. To avoid shocking glass (which can cause it to shatter when you defrost it), cool your food completely before putting it into the jar, and don’t seal the jar super-tightly before putting it away. Because food can expand when it freezes, use wide-mouthed jars without shoulders and leave an inch of space at the top of the jar instead of filling it to the brim.