Protecting your frozen assets

How to Prevent Freezer Burn

by Darryl Brooks

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We've all done it. You pull some meat or a left-over casserole out of the freezer, unwrap it, and it just doesn't look right. Your meat has turned grey, or the casserole is encased in ice crystals. What you have is called freezer burn, and it is a result of food not being properly wrapped or left too long in the freezer.

Freezer burn is caused by air being allowed to circulate around the food removing the moisture. This in turn dries out the food or the moisture re-freezes on the surface of the food. This process is worse than it once was, because modern "frost-free" refrigerators suck the moisture out of the air, and as a by-product, your food.

Freezer burn isn't harmful, but the tough dried out texture of meat, or the mushy tasteless result of the ice crystals, makes it wasteful. After all, you froze the food to save money and stretch your food budget. If you end up throwing it out due to freezer burn, you have wasted time and money.

So do you want to know how to prevent freezer burn? Seal it. Keep the moisture in and keep fresh air out. Begin by making sure there is as little air as possible in the storage container. If you are buying and storing meat from a market, it will depend on how it is packaged. The standard plastic wrapped plastic tray is sealed, but there is a lot of air in there. Remove the meat from the store container. If you have bought large portions, now is a good time to separate it into servings or meals. Wrap the pieces tightly in plastic wrap, molding and fitting it so there is as little air as possible between the wrapping and the meat. Use freezer tape if necessary to seal it. Now place these wrapped pieces into a sealable plastic bag. Push as much air out as possible, then seal the bag almost closed. Now push any remaining air out and hold the bag in close to the meat while you finish the seal. This will create a bit of a vacuum to prevent air from getting in or out. Label and date the meat and store it in your freezer.

If you bought the meat from a butcher, chances are it was put in a plastic bag and then wrapped with paper. The act of wrapping the bag with the paper forced most of the air out of the bag and the paper is taped tightly around it. Go ahead and leave this wrapped as is and then follow the same procedure for placing the meat into a plastic bag.

If you are storing leftovers or a casserole, don't just put it in a plastic container. Even though these containers are sealed, there is a lot of air left inside to cause freezer burn. If the food is not too messy, first wrap it in plastic as you would the meat before placing it in the plastic tub or box. If it is too messy to wrap, go ahead and freeze it in the container. As soon as it is frozen, pop it out, wrap the frozen block in plastic, and then reseal it.

With a little planning and a few minutes, freezer burn can be minimized or eliminated. This will save you time and money, and make those leftovers taste almost as good as the day they were cooked. Just remember to date everything. No matter how well it is wrapped, time is the enemy and eventually freezer burn will win out.

Reviewed September 2017

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