What is Freezer Burn?


You go over to the freezer and pull something out for dinner only to find that it’s a little icy or maybe the color is off. You turn it over in your hands inspecting it for a minute, then wonder “Is this still safe to eat?”  Sound familiar?

Most of us have experienced this multiple times.  Freezer burn.  No one likes to find that the food they’ve bought has been burned and having to toss it in the trash.  But what causes freezer burn? And how far can it go before it really isn’t safe to eat?

How long is too long?

According to the USDA, so long as it is stored properly, food stored at 0°F is safe to eat indefinitely.  This temperature is too low for microorganisms to grow, which prevents spoilage.  The problem with freezing foods for long periods of time is that the quality deteriorates.  So it isn’t that you can’t eat it, it’s more that you probably won’t want to.

Part of this is due to enzymes present in the food before freezing.  The low temperature only slows the breakdown or ripening process, rather than stopping it completely. After a while, they start to affect the quality.

You can find the FDA’s guide on how long most foods can be frozen before losing quality here: Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart

But what about freezer burn?

Freezer Burn is usually caused by improper storage, but can also happen after so long no matter how well you seal it. Those frosty patches or discolored spots on your food are caused by a combination or dehydration and oxidation.

When the packaging or method of storage isn’t air tight, air creeps its way to your food.  Because water likes to move to less concentrated, colder areas, the air essentially pulls the moisture out of the food.  This is where the ice crystals you often find on the surface of freezer burned foods come from.  What you’re usually left with is dry, discolored patches especially when it comes to meats.

What you might not realize is that even with freezer burn, your food is still safe to eat so long as there are no signs of spoilage.  Freezer burn may leave spots dry, tough, and tasteless, but the food is still edible.  So, rather than throwing away the whole thing, it’s recommended to simply remove the “freezer burned” portions before cooking.

frost-buildup-freezerHowever, there are exceptions.  Sometimes freezer burn is caused by fluctuations in the temperature of your freezer.  This is why it’s so important to check the quality of your food before consuming.  As the temperature rises, it leaves your food exposed to bacteria and other potentially harmful microorganisms.

In addition to freezer burned foods, another common sign of this is that there is an excess buildup of ice or frost inside of your freezer.  An easy way to find out if this is the problem is to get a thermometer for your freezer and to check on it every so often to make sure it’s staying at a safe temperature.

We hope you found this helpful!  If you did, be sure to like it and share it with a friend.  If you have any questions, tips, or comments feel free to leave them for us below.  Need a part for your refrigerator or freezer?  Find the parts, cleaners, accessories and more you need in stock on our website at www.1stSourceServall.com.

Written by: Sarah Walker 

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