Demystifying The Phenomenon Known as ‘Freezer Burn’

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Have you ever pulled meat, vegetables, ice cream or other food out of your freezer, only to discover the formation of ice crystals and discolored spots covering the surface? Sure you have. Nearly everyone who stores food in their freezer will experience this phenomenon at some point. Most people automatically toss any food suffering from this condition in the trash, but taking such brash action isn’t always necessary.

What Is Freezer Burn?

Also known as freezer burn, this phenomenon doesn’t spoil food, but it can negatively alter its flavor, texture and nutritional value. Freezer burn is caused by the expansion of water molecules found within the food. When food is stored in a cold environment, such as the freezer, its water molecules naturally try to escape to the coldest area. First they will evaporate to the outer layer of the food, at which point they form visible clusters of ice crystals, then they will evaporate past the food and stick to the outer walls of the freezer.

It’s a common belief that refrigerants and other potentially toxic chemicals found in freezers cause this condition. Thankfully, this is just a myth, as freezer burn is merely a condition that’s characterized by oxidation and dehydration from the expansion of water molecules. A piece of meat with freezer burn may not taste as tender or flavorful as a fresh piece of meat, but eating it is not going to make you sick either.

Tips To Prevent Freezer Burn:

 

  • If freezer burn is problematic with your unit, place a small, uncovered bowl of water inside your freezer. This promotes a naturally humid environment, which should theoretically reduce the likelihood of freezer burn.

 

  • Temperature fluctuations may trigger freezer burn, so avoid messing with the temperature settings. Maintain a stable climate while only opening the freezer door when you intend to add or remove food.

 

  • Double check your food to ensure it’s stored in sealed containers. Most cases of freezer burn are caused by improperly stored food. If air is allowed to enter the container, there’s a much greater chance of freezer burn setting in.

 

  • Time also plays a role in the formation of freezer burn. Meat that’s stored for several months or longer may suffer from this condition, even if you follow all of the advice mentioned here. If you have a tendency to forget about food stored in your refrigerator or freezer, write the date on the outside of the bag or container.