As usual, you have far too much leftover meat after a barbecue or get together and there’s no better solution than to freeze all that’s remained uneaten or uncooked. But what’s the secret of freezing foods so that they don’t end up with the dreaded freezer burn? Come to mention it, what exactly is freezer burn and should you eat freezer burnt food?
Freezer burn refers to the parched areas that can develop on frozen food. It occurs if food is frozen in non-airtight packaging – air seeps in and dries out the food. Unpleasant blackish-grey discolouration occurs on the surfaces that have been exposed to the encroaching air. It is also possible for temperature fluctuations, which can occur during transportation, to lead to freezer burn – again, if foods are not suitably packaged.
Well, let’s start with the good news: even though the blackish-grey discolouration doesn’t look appetising and makes you question whether the food is fit for human consumption, all this discolouration means is that a part of the food has dried out. It’s a similar effect to what you see when a slice of ham has been left exposed to air for too long; in fact, any food that contains water tends to lose moisture to the air at room temperature, leaving it unattractive and darkened. So then, although freezer burn doesn’t look nice, foods can be eaten safely once they’ve been prepared.
Packaging is key if you want to avoid freezer burn
Generally speaking, freezing food that contains water actually prevents it from drying out, as the water freezes inside the food, where it is trapped as a solid. Oddly enough, however, frozen food can dry out. Perhaps you’ve noticed that, although ice cannot melt at the normal freezer temperature of -18°C, it can still disappear!
This is not as mysterious as it seems, a similar effect occurs when you heat iodine crystals. When you do this, the iodine sublimes, i.e. transforms straight from a solid into a gas, and exactly the same thing happens in a freezer to ice – it sublimes.
The solution: limit free-space around frozen food by wrapping it tightly in packaging that is water vapour-tight (e.g. a freezer bag). If you do this frozen food will lose very little moisture.
So, always take good care of your frozen food by using the proper packaging, and then you will be able to enjoy its full quality and freshness, even after months of storing it.