Is Freezer Burn On Food OK?

There may be a bag of peas in the back of your freezer that you opened years ago or maybe a couple of chicken breasts that were wrapped weeks ago. They may be fuzzy with frost, zapped of flavor and stuck together; those packages are dying the slow freezer burn death of numerous forgotten foods everywhere. 

Freezer burn on food is caused by two effects: oxidation and dehydration. Oxidation happens when a chemical reaction in which oxygen molecules bind with other molecules to create a new compound causes irreversible color and flavor changes while dehydration is the loss of moisture, it dries out your frozen food and leaching them of flavor and turning the texture hard and leathery. 

Dehydration in your freezer is caused by sublimation. Sublimation is the process where a solid evaporates into a gas. It is like how ice crystals lie on the surface of frozen meat. Looking toward the meat, those water molecules see a moisture-rich environment where they can bind with other water molecules to create a solid. 

The same molecules see an environment with poor moisture where there is nothing to grab onto. Though the water stays attached to the steak, occasionally a molecule gets free and zooms off. As these molecules depart, the surface becomes rougher, exposing more surface area to the air and accelerating the loss. Given enough time, even water trapped deep within the meat will eventually find a way out, carrying the flavor with it. 

Oxidation is like the dehydration process but in reverse. The freezer air is full of oxygen molecules that are zipping about, while the surface of the meat is bereft, so as oxygen collides with the meat, they can be captured. The color of the meat turns brown because myoglobin becomes metmyoglobin and the flavors are gone, and the meat becomes off-tasting. 

With these two causes of freezer burn, here are five effects of it:


You will notice the difference in the food’s texture as they will appear shriveled and dry. The loss of water dries out the food, giving it a dry and leather-like texture. 


The first thing that you will see in a freezer-burned food is the difference in color. Red meat turns brown or gray when it is freezer burnt, while chicken becomes darker. This is due to chemical changes in the food’s pigment, which is normally caused by overexposure to air. 


The water molecules inside the food go through sublimation, and they can go from a solid-state to gas. The air molecules contain the food odors, and it causes a distinct smell when the freezer door is opened. 


Freezer burned food is safe to eat, but one of its negative effects is that it lacks taste and flavor. Meat that underwent freezer burn tastes dry and flavorless due to the loss of water molecules that contain much of the food’s flavor. Although it is edible, it is unpleasant to eat.


The result of freezer burn is food waste. This is especially true if you are running a restaurant or if you are in the food industry. A lot of restaurants and commercial kitchens will opt just to throw an entire chicken, steak or vegetables away. Throwing a large quantity of food is basically throwing out your profits. Wasted food is wasted money. 

In order to prevent freezer burns, you need to make sure that your food is packaged correctly. Never leave the surfaces of your food exposed and make sure that there is minimum contact between the food and air. For meat, make sure to wrap them tightly with a plastic wrap or a waxy freezer paper, then in aluminum foil. Liquids should be placed in plastic jars with tight lids and vegetables can go in sealable bags. Remember to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burns. 

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