How to Prevent Freezer Burn

Avoid food waste with these easy tips for freezer storage.

The freezer can be one of the most time- and money-saving appliances in your kitchen—as long as you're smart about freezing food. (Check out our 3 Best Tips for Freezing Homemade Meals here.) Freezer burn can affect perfectly good ingredients, turning them from wonderful to waste before you realize it's happening. Here's how to prevent freezer burn so your foods are just as good coming out of the freezer as they were going in.

What is Freezer Burn?

Freezer burn happens when the surface of food is exposed to the cold air of the freezer for an extended period of time. This sucks away the moisture, leaving ice crystals and discoloration in its path. While eating food with freezer burn won't make you sick, the texture and taste are still affected.

How to Prevent Freezer Burn

Wrap food well

Because you want to minimize direct contact between the food and the cold air, the best way to prevent freezer burn is to wrap it in a protective layer of plastic, foil or both. A vacuum sealer is the most effective at storing foods such as meat or sturdy vegetables that won't be crushed by the process of removing air from the bag. For more delicate foods or liquids, fill sealable food-safe silicone bags or plastic zip-top freezer bags as full as possible, then gently press any remaining air out of the bags. For baked goods or loaves of bread, wrap in a layer of plastic wrap, then wrap tightly in foil.

Freeze it quickly

Make sure your freezer is fully functional. A thermometer should read 0° F—a warmer freezer will be slower to freeze foods and may not keep foods frozen. Make sure foods are room temperature or cooler before you stick them in the freezer. Place wrapped items in a single layer on a baking sheet to help them freeze completely through quickly. Stacking items or overfilling your freezer can slow the process. Once the food is frozen solid however, you can stack items on top of each other to save space.

Use it up

No matter how well you wrap it, the longer something stays in the freezer, the more chance it has of getting freezer burned. So while you don't have to thaw and eat your frozen food right away, it can't stay in there forever. Label all foods with the quantities and date frozen, so you'll know exactly what is in your freezer and when you need to use it. (Want more convenience from your freezer? These Slow-Cooker Freezer Meals are Going to Save Your Weeknights)

Use up your frozen food within the suggested time frames below to keep it tasting fresh:

  • Bacon and cold cuts: 1-2 months
  • Soups, stews and casseroles: 2-3 months
  • Ground meat: 3-4 months
  • Seafood: 4-6 months
  • Whole cuts of meat and poultry: 6-9 months
  • Vegetables and fruit: 8-12 months
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