At one point or another, most of us have found food at the back of our freezer not looking quite right. This could be a package of meat, veggies, ice cream or anything else that you’re used to stocking up. It’s likely your food’s been affected by freezer burn and unless you like your meals or snacks dull, pasty and without flavour, you need to avoid the downside of freezing stuff.
The only thing I religiously keep stocked up in my freezer is different types of bread: naan, chapati, multigrain toast, and parathas. But it wasn’t until a few months ago when Australia first went into lockdown that I thought to keep extra raw chicken in the freezer for emergencies even though I prefer to cook veg when possible.
One day I decided to pick up the big chicken breast pack from my local Coles that has five to six big fillets. Considering it’s just me and my partner, we rarely go through the entire pack in one sitting (unless there’s multiple items on the menu — a rare occurrence in our home). So after opening it, I used cling film in a hurry to wrap the pack and put it back in the freezer. I remember being out of freezer bags at this point and all my containers were in use.
A month or so later, I revisited the same pack (after defrosting it in the sink), only to find the chicken had formed a tough layer and looked discoloured, pale and frankly, kind of gross. Now it didn’t smell bad, just looked like it had gone bad. So I did what anyone else would do in the situation — I asked Google what the hell had happened to my chicken and whether it was safe to cook.
So, what exactly is freezer burn and can it make you sick?
It is after a quick but thorough Google search that I learned about freezer burn and what it means. I might be late to the party (don’t judge) but it’s better late than never to learn about my rookie kitchen mistakes.
Simply put, freezer burn occurs due to moisture loss or in other words, it’s dehydration that happens when your food’s been exposed to air. This is especially true of poorly stored food that’s been frozen for an extended period of time.
While freezer burn is harmless and your food will remain safe to eat, that’s not to say it won’t lose its taste and colouring. It may even have a hint of metallic flavour that’ll ruin any good dish.
How to prevent freezer burn
Now that I’d understood the concept of freezer burn, I of course, Googled how to avoid it. If you likr buying in bulk to save cost and meal prep, you might as well do it right and avoid food wastage.
First things first. You want to freeze your food as soon as possible to maintain quality but if it’s hot, wait until it cools down to room temperature.
Do a little digging and find the best containers or freezer bags that’ll help you store your food properly. The idea is you want something that won’t allow any air in if possible and is safe to use.
Because we’re all abut cutting back on plastic use to be more environmentally friendly, you should ideally avoid using plastic containers. However, if you don’t have a choice (read, are too lazy), it’s important to note not all plastic containers are safe for storage. In fact, you should also avoid cling wrap and opt for aluminium foil instead.
If you’re keen to make a difference, buy reusable freezer bags that are both eco-friendly and easy to clean. You can buy them from Amazon or Ebay. Alternatively, you can use freezer-friendly glass storage containers to freeze your food.
Most importantly though, if it’s ice cream you’re hoping to save from freezer burn, a member of Aldi Mums on Facebook suggests turning your tub upside down (make sure the lid is on tight) and then placing it in a ziplock bag. I’d try this hack but ice cream never stays long enough in my house for a freezer burn.
We’d love to hear from you if you have similar tricks up your sleeve. Give us a shout in the comments if you do.
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