If you are stockpiling food for the long term in your freezer then you will most likely have some food items affected by freezer burn. Generally speaking, the freezer burn can impact both vegetables, fruits, and meat as well. Usually, food items with a higher content of water will develop freezer burn if you store them for a long time. Although meat and vegetables with freezer burn are still edible they will not have a good taste and their texture will also be different.
You can prevent freezer burn by vacuum sealing your food, keeping a constant temperature in your freezer, packing the food at room temperature, using small batches, not overloading your freezer, double packing, dipping the food in water, and placing a cup of water in the freezer. Food items that are affected by freezer burn are still edible although their taste and texture will be different and in most cases fairly unpleasant.
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Freezer burn happens due to a process called sublimation, and it happens when the ice from the food turns into gas or vapor rather than turning into water. Most meats with freezer burn will have a thick layer of ice on top of them and they will also have a dark brown color. The problem with the freezer burn that the frost or ice comes from inside the food itself, basically, the food is also dehydrating to a certain extent while it is affected by the freezer burn and this is why a lot of meats affected by it tend to be fairly dry.
Food items that have freezer burn are still edible, but once you defrost them you will notice that the meats tend to be discolored and rather dry, on the other hand, fruits and vegetables also change color but they often turn into mush once you have defrosted them. This is why it is important to rotate the food items in your freezer, as who knows how old some of the food items at the bottom of your freezer are.
The good news is that there are a couple of steps that you can do in order to prevent freezer burn, and it is mostly about packaging and how much moisture the food item has while you are packaging it to be frozen. If you want to know what foods last a long time in the fridge then check out my recent article Foods that last a long time in the fridge ( Top 14 ).
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1. Vacuum sealing the food prevents freezer burn
One of the main reasons why freezer burn tends to happen is because of bad packaging. If you place your food items in a simple plastic bag then you will leave a lot of small air pockets in the packaging. These air pockets will allow for the ice to turn into vapor thus the freezer burn effect will happen sooner or later. In large supermarkets you have probably seen that most frozen meats are packaged in an airtight seal, this prevents freezer burn and it also eliminates excess air in the packaging and thus increasing its shelf life.
You can easily vacuum seal most meats, although you will have some trouble with fruits and vegetables. Most frozen vegetables that are sold in supermarkets are not vacuum sealed, instead, they pump the packaging full of gases that contain preservatives, and these will also prevent freezer burn.If you want to make a food stockpile that lasts for a long time then check out my recent article Preppers pantry ( In 15 Easy Steps ).
2. Keep a constant temperature in your freezer
Ideally, you should keep your freezer at 0°F or -18°C, although below freezing temperatures are ok for freezing food but the colder your freezer is the faster it will freeze the food. If you want to avoid freezer burn then it is extremely important for the freezer to freeze the food as fast as possible. With lower temperatures, the ice crystals will form quickly and these ice crystals will have no time to turn into vapor.
In addition to this, you should also avoid opening your freezer too often. The problem with opening your freezer too often is that you allow moisture inside your freezer, which will form water droplets due to condensation if you keep the freezer open for too long. Added moisture or even water droplets could kickstart the sublimation process which causes the freezer burn.
3. Pack the food at room temperature
A lot of people make the big mistake of packaging food to be frozen while the food is still hot. If you place some hot food in your freezer then you are just accelerating the freezer burn process. While the food item is still hot it will take longer for the freezer to freeze it, and during this time pockets of air and gas will form which will cause freezer burn eventually. Do note that the freezer burn effect can happen no matter what type of freezer you are using, but the higher quality freezers tend to slow the process down significantly.
Ideally, you should place the food in the fridge for a couple of hours before you place it in the freezer, this way the freezer will have a lot easier time freezing it. Just keep in mind that the food has to be at room temperature and not hotter when you place it into the fridge.
4. Use small batches so the food items freeze faster
One of the main reasons why a lot of people have food that has freezer burn is because they do not use small batches. If you freeze a large piece of meat in a single packaging then the odds of the freezer burn effect to happen increase exponentially. Even if you vacuum seal a large piece of meat there will still be small air bubbles in the meat itself which will allow the freezer burn process to happen.
5. Do not overload your freezer
All freezers are made with an ideal airflow in mind, this means that if you pack your freezer too tightly then you will obstruct this airflow. Once the airflow is obstructed the freezer will have different temperatures in the freezer, some areas will have the set temperature while others will have a higher temperature. The problem is that once there is a temperature difference in the freezer is that the freezer burn effect will start to take place in some areas of your freezer.
Ideally, you should fill the freezer as the more items the freezer contains the easier it will freeze the food, but you should always keep an eye out on how the air will actually flow through the freezer. Most freezers come with plastic trays which you place on the bottom, these will have a couple of inches of space which allows the air to flow uninterrupted. In addition to this, you should allow around 3-4 inches of airflow on top as well.
If you want to know more information about overloading a freezer then check out my recent article Can a freezer be overloaded ( Top 6 Problems ).
6. Double pack the food to avoid freezer burn
You can also prevent freezer burn by double packing the food, simply place the food in a plastic bag, and then place this into another plastic bag. If you have a vacuum sealer then vacuum seal the food first and then pack it in another plastic bag. Your main goal is to eliminate as many air bubbles for both packages as possible as air bubbles are one of the causes of freezer bruin. If you do not have a vacuum sealer then use two regular plastic bags and pack the food items as tight as possible.
7. Dip the food in water
Freezer burn is not a new problem, it has been around since refrigeration has become readily available. By dipping the food item in water before packaging and freezing you add excess moisture to the packaging, although this might sound bad but this excess moisture will freeze fairly fast, and the food items will not dehydrate as fast due to the freezer burn as there is excess moisture in the packaging.
This is how the fishing industry also transports a lot of fish, shrimps, and seafood. You have probably seen fish markets placing fish on ice, which then is frozen, it is the same principle.
8. Place a cup of water in the freezer
Freezer bun tends to happen once the excess moisture evaporates from the food due to sublimation, and this can be avoided by adding some water into the freezer. This is basically the same thing which is happening when during the wintertime you increase the heat and the room has low humidity, and you wake up with a sore throat and dry mouth. Due to low humidity, your body will lose a lot more water so by placing a cup of water in the room you increase the humidity and you do not wake up dehydrated.
The inside of your freezer works more or less the same when it comes to humidity, if the humidity levels in the freezer are low then it is more likely that humidity will evaporate from inside of your food items even if they are frozen. Get a small plastic cup and fill it with room temperature water, then just place it in the freezer. Make sure that the cup of water isn’t covered by anything and this way it will increase humidity the inside of the freezer.
As you can see freezer burn can be prevented in a couple of steps. One of the most important steps is to make sure to pack the food items as tightly as possible, ideally, you should vacuum seal them. This way the food will take a significantly longer time to be affected by the freezer burn as there are no air pockets in the packaging which is one of the main causes for the freezer burn.