As you rummage through your freezer, you might stumble upon a frost-covered, half-eaten carton of ice cream that must have been hidden away for months. Excited, you try to take a bite only to discover that it’s lost its creamy consistency and now has an odd, slightly off taste—you’ve just experienced freezer burn! But what is freezer burn, and how can you prevent it from happening to your precious ice cream or other freezer-stored items? Read on to learn more about this common issue.
The Science Behind Freezer Burn
To understand freezer burn, you first need to know what’s happening on a molecular level. When you store food in the freezer, the main goal is to preserve its freshness so that it remains palatable and safe to eat at a later date. But over time, some of the moisture in the food can escape and turn into frost on the food’s surface and within its packaging.
That brings us to the main question—why does frost form in your refrigerator and freezer? This frost is actually the result of a process called sublimation. Sublimation can occur for a variety of reasons, including faulty door seals and temperature fluctuations within your refrigerator. During sublimation, the water in the food changes from a solid state (ice) to a gaseous state (water vapor) without turning into a liquid first. As the moisture escapes from the food, it leaves behind “dry” or “burned” areas. The result? Freezer burn.
Recognizing Freezer Burn
So, how do you know if something in your freezer has experienced freezer burn? Here are some tell-tale signs to watch out for:
Dry or Leathery Patches
Freezer-burned food will often have noticeably dry or leathery areas where the moisture has escaped. This is especially common in frozen meats.
If you see ice crystals both inside and outside the food’s packaging, it’s a strong indicator of freezer burn.
Freezer-burned food may also become discolored, showing grayish-brown or even white spots on the surface.
How To Prevent Freezer Burn
Now that you know what freezer burn is, let’s move on to the most important part—how you can prevent it. Here are some tips to help you keep your frozen goodies safe from the burn:
Make sure your food is securely wrapped in freezer-safe bags, cling wrap, or aluminum foil. This will create a barrier that keeps the moisture from escaping too easily.
Remove Excess Air
Be sure to remove as much air as possible from your food’s packaging before sealing it. This can minimize the space for moisture to escape and form ice crystals.
Store at a Consistent Temperature
Avoid temperature fluctuations in your freezer by keeping it evenly packed and not overcrowding it. This helps maintain a consistent temperature, which can reduce the possibility of freezer burn.
Nobody wants to bite into a frosty chunk of freezer burn, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your food from this icy fate. By following our tips and tricks, you can reduce the chances of your beloved ice cream or other frozen items succumbing to the dreaded freezer burn.