Using Your Freezer

Storing food safely in your freezer

A freezer is a great way to store food for a length of time while keeping the food tasty and safe to eat. There are some guidelines that you should follow:

Packaging your frozen food

Buying food in bulk enables you to have enough food for your hungry family, but it means that you may have to store the leftovers for an extended period of time. Taking a few extra minutes to wrap up the food you'd like to store in your freezer will benefit your pocketbook in the long run. Some enemies of frozen food include freezer burn and bacteria.

Keep your freezer's thermostat at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent bacteria, yeast and other microbes from reproducing. If you do this, your food will be safe indefinitely, with only the quality of the food suffering as the time it's frozen increases.

The sooner you freeze your food, the better it will be once it thaws. If you freeze your food at its freshest, it will taste better when you use it. Nutrients will also be retained if you freeze sooner rather than later.

The color of the food may change the longer it's frozen, but don't worry. If the meat has been well-packaged and frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit the entire time, it will be fine. Below is a table that you can use as a guideline for the length of time you can store food for the best quality:

Food

State

Maximum length of time

Bacon and sausage

Cooked or uncooked

2 months

Casseroles

Cooked

2 months

Fruit

Raw (Sugar, syrup, or unsweetened)

12 months

Gravy, meat or poultry

Cooked

3 months

Processed meat (including ham, hot dogs and luncheon meats)

Cooked

2 months

Meat (Roasts)

Uncooked

9 months

Meat (Steaks or chops)

Uncooked

6 months

Meat (Ground)

Uncooked

4 months

Meat

Cooked

3 months

Poultry (Whole)

Uncooked

12 months

Poultry (Parts)

Uncooked

9 months

Poultry (Giblets)

Uncooked

4 months

Poultry

Cooked

4 months

Soups and stews

Cooked

3 months

Vegetables

Blanched

18 months

Wild game

Uncooked

12 months

For any of the above foods, the best way to package your food is to vacuum-seal the food in plastic, foil wrap or freezer paper. You can freeze the packages as you buy them in the grocery store if you know you will be using the food within the month.

Avoiding freezer burn

Freezer burn happens when air gets trapped between the wrapper and the frozen food. It can change the appearance and texture of your food and make it unappetizing. Areas of the food will be darker than the rest. Meat can turn a grayish-brown. You can still use the food by cutting out the piece that is freezer burnt and cooking normally. If the majority of the food is freezer burnt, you may have to discard the entire piece.

Freezer burn is more prevalent in frost-free or self-defrosting models. Because frost-free models remove moisture from the air, it follows that they also take moisture out of any food you store in the freezer. The best way to preserve food quality in a self-defrosting freezer is to vacuum-seal the container.

The best way to avoid freezer burn is to vacuum-seal the wrapper. If you'll be freezing a large amount of food, you may want to invest in a vacuum sealer. They're fairly common, easy to use and can save you lots of money.

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