Reader’s Question: Is Freezer Burn Safe?

Photo by Magnetisch

Photo by Magnetisch

I mentioned in this week’s Menu Plan that I would be cooking some frozen hamburger patties in gravy to hide a little bit of freezer burn.  This prompted the following comment from Alice:

You mentioned that you would use some hamburger patties that are a little freezer burned.

How do you know when something is too freezer burned to eat? I tend to error on the “better throw it out” side, but then feel terrible for wasting something. I try not to let things get lost in the freezer, but we all know that happens to everyone.

I know the “experts” say to keep meat in the freezer no longer than about 90 days or so — I’m not sure who made up that rule and whether it’s really valid or not.

Well Alice, my gut instinct tells me that freezer burn effects the quality of the food, but not the actual safety.  However I by no means am an authority figure on food safety so I went searching for a little more factual backup!

Who could be more authoritative on food safety than the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)?   According to the USDA article on freezing safety, my gut was right.  They state that freezer burn does not make items unsafe, just dry in spots.

As for the 90 day thing I know I’ve eaten vacuum sealed & frozen Venison that is a full year old with no ill effects.   At the same link quoted above the USDA  states that food stored constantly at 0 °F will “always” be safe.  Freezing to 0 °F inactivates, but does not kill, the microbes in food, so once you defrost it, the microbes become active again.  And if your freezer doesn’t get to 0°F then all bets are off! (yes, they do sell freezer thermometers if you want to be sure)

So there you have it!  Do you have a question for Frugal Upstate? Feel free to ask either her or by using my Contact Form

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  1. says

    The 90 day thing has more to do with the kind of freezer in which the food is stored. The rule assumes, because there has to be an assumption of some sort, that most people consider their freezer the freezer compartment of a side-by-side or top portion of a refrigerator. These freezers do not stay as cold as a deep freeze and frequently are left open. This is not the ideal for freezer storage and food loses quality rapidly compared to a rarely opened deep freeze unit.

    We’re still working through our 1/2 cow and I have beef wrapped in freezer paper that is now 16 months old and still excellent quality. However, this is the deep freeze in my garage.

  2. says

    I agree Heather, most assume the freezer portion of a refrigerator. Last night we ate a wonderful venison tenderloin that was vacuum sealed and dated ’07. It was stuck in the back (of our deep freeze)and forgotten, otherwise we usually don’t leave it that long. Just in case it would be tough or dry after that long, I cooked it all day in a crock pot with a jar of salsa. Came out tender and fantastic! Goes to show that if you get over the fear of “old” meat from the freezer, you can have some great meals.

    Thanks for digging up the info from the USDA Jenn!

    Oh, and a side note Jenn…I made the Dilly Green Beans that you posted last December. We opened them up last weekend and they are FABULOUS! I wish I had 4 times what I made! Thanks!

  3. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says

    Heather-thanks for pointing out the difference between a side by side fridge and a deep freeze. Of course wrapping well or deep freezing helps as well-it is direct contact with the air that causes freezer burn.

    Josie-Woohoo! Glad you enjoyed the Dilly Beans-I L.O.V.E. them. . . had the same experience, just made a few and once I cracked them open wished I had made more. . . then this year my beans were eaten by bunnies several times so I had a lag in my growing time-not enough beans.


  1. […] This week’s meal plan is dedicated to cleaning out my upstairs freezer. I was scrounging around in there yesterday and realized how many bits and pieces of things there are in there that have to get used up-STAT! Freezer burn is starting to set in on some of it-but as I’ve written about before, freezer burned food is still safe-just not as appealing. […]

  2. […] I haven’t made my Green Chile Chicken Lasagna for quite some time, and it really is a delicous recipe.  This will be a great way to use up the slightly freezer burned chicken breasts-the casserole will help hide the freezer burn.  (Note: freezer burn is safe to eat) […]

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