5 Ways To Eliminate Freezer Burn
Freezing food is unquestionably the quickest, easiest way to preserve food. Unfortunately, there is a down side if it's not done correctly -- freezer burn. Everyone who owns a freezer has tasted that nasty flavor that food takes on when it hasn't been frozen properly. The good news is, freezer burn is preventable. Your food will store longer, remain fresher, and taste better if you take a few simple precautions when putting it in the freezer. Before we talk about what to do, however, we ought to take a look at what freezer burn is, and why it happens. First, freezer burn is basically caused by dehydration and oxidation. So in other words, freezer burn can be prevented by keeping oxygen away from the food and not allowing it to dehydrate as it sits in the freezer. We should note that freezer burn doesn't affect the safety of the meat, but it does affect the texture and flavor in a very negative way. So freezer burned food is safe to eat, you just won't want to. Following are 5 things you can do to make freezer burn a thing of the past. Wrap with plastic cling wrap The simplest way to keep moisture in and oxygen out, is to wrap your food in plastic cling wrap. You'll want to do this twice and you'll want each layer to go around your food 3-4 times. Make sure you press down the plastic against the food so there are no voids (air pockets) between the food and the wrap. Follow that up with a layer or two of butcher paper and you should be good for 4 - 6 months. Use a vacuum sealer Vacuum sealers run $40 - $150 and are available pretty much everywhere. While it might seem like $100 is a lot to spend, losing 6 ribeye steaks to freezer burn would pay for the sealer. The good news is the vacuum pulls out all the air from the package, ensuring there are no voids between the food and the plastic. And because they use a heavier plastic, vacuum sealers ensure these foods will last longer. You can plan on a good six months with vacuum sealed food. Take the vacuum sealed packages and wrap in butcher paper for extra protection. Chill your food before freezing One of the things that encourages dehydration is changes in temperature in the freezer. If you're constantly opening the door to the freezer to see what's inside, if you don't close the door tightly when you leave, or if you put in large quantities of room temperature food, you are altering the temperature in the freezer. Even minute temperature changes lead to a small but perceptible level of "thaw" which leads to dehydration (and remember, dehydration is one of the principle precursors of freezer burn.) Putting food in the fridge for an hour or two before you put them in the freezer will minimize this. Set your freezer's temperature appropriately To freeze food, you want your freezer as cold as possible. Somewhere around zero degrees Fahrenheit is a good place to start. The closer your freezer temperature is to actual freezing (32*F) the more opening the door, putting in warm food, etc. is going to affect your frozen food. The colder the freezer, the less likely you are to have freezer burn, all other things being equal. Load your freezer properly Too much or too little food will increase the likelihood of freezer burn. Your food must be loaded such that air can move around the food. This is especially true at the top and bottom of the freezer. Be sure to leave a couple of inches both top and bottom. Also, you want your freezer to stay at roughly 75% capacity. Too little food makes for too little thermal mass and your freezer has to work harder to keep your food frozen (costing you money in electricity as well.) Too much food and you don't get good airflow around your food making it difficult to keep the food uniformly frozen. Also, overloaded freezers often mean insufficient food rotation. If you leave your food in the freezer long enough, it's going to go bad. Conclusion: Using a freezer is the most economical, effective and efficient way to store food today. It's not quite as simple as tossing the package from the store into the freezer (like in the picture above,) but it really isn't hard to get a good result with a freezer. Of those listed above, by far the most effective means of avoiding freezer burn is to use a vacuum sealer. The sealer will pay for itself may times over. You'll never be sorry you bought one if you own and use a freezer. Let us know in the comments below what you do to prevent freezer burn. If you have other ideas we'd all love to hear them.