How to tell when your food is freezer burned—and what to do about it

Whether you have chicken thighs, ground beef, or diced veggies in your freezer, there’s inherent moisture in your meat. Over time, the food will slowly dry out, leaving the water to accumulate on the surface of the food itself.

*Bonus Tip: Strategically wrapping your meat—especially in tougher-to-tear wax paper—can help safely retain moisture for up to four months in your freezer, according to the Food and Drug Administration. It also can help preserve the taste and quality of your meat.

See: If you look at a piece of meat and it has gray or brown spots on it, that is a tell-tale sign of freezer burn. Ice crystals on your ice cream or inside loose packaging are also a bad sign.

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Cooking Tips for Freezer-Burned Meat
I’ll admit that eating oxidized meat isn’t always a great experience, but I hate letting anything go to waste. So, I’ve learned a few tricks that can redeem almost any frozen package.

Freezer burn can be a serious issue for home cooks when it comes to the quality of food— especially since more supermarkets are discounting meat in bulk. Preserving your meat in the freezer is perfectly safe, especially if you take time to wrap it correctly to avoid freezer burn. If your purchase still ends up developing a frosty layer, you might wonder: is it safe to eat?

Keep your frozen foods fresh with these Ziploc bags.

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You can exclude air from a partly finished pint of ice cream by covering the surface with waxed paper.

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Smell: A quick whiff can also tell you if meat has developed freezer burn. A strong plastic-y smell is a good indicator of air exchange between your food and the freezer.

As the United States Department of Agriculture explains, any loose liquid within packaged foods will turn into ice crystals, leading to discolored and tough-looking patches that weren’t there when you first stored it in your freezer. Chicken may appear to be pinker or take on a bright white hue, whereas beef can turn a shade of brown.

Bacteria can grow rapidly, thanks to the melting ice that has formed on the exterior of the food (rather than on the interior, which can preserve the food for longer periods of time).

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There’s only one instance when you should definitely toss meat affected by freezer burn.

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Most foods contain a lot of water. This forms ice in the freezer, but even though it’s solid, it can still escape from your food as water vapor through a process called sublimation. Sublimation can happen at any freezer temperature but is worse if your freezer gets too warm.

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