Freezer burn looks bad and tastes worse. We’ve all experienced the sinking feeling of discovering freezer burn on the meat we’re thawing for dinner.
Thousands of people call the USDA each day to ask if freezer burnt food is safe to eat. You may be surprised to learn that not only is freezer burn safe to eat, it’s easy to get rid of the terrible taste!
To mitigate the taste of freezer burn in food, start by trimming away the freezer-burned areas, as these parts are usually dry and flavorless. For meats, marinating can help reintroduce moisture and flavor, masking the effects of freezer burn. In the case of vegetables and fruits, cooking them in soups, stews, or smoothies can help blend the flavors and minimize the impact of freezer burn. Additionally, adding herbs, spices, or sauces to freezer-burned foods can enhance their taste and make them more palatable.
Below, we’ll look at general methods for removing freezer burn taste. We’ll also cover specific methods for different foods, and explore the science behind freezer burn.
Getting Rid of Freezer Burn Taste
Freezer burn can quickly kill your enthusiasm for a meal. Seeing those tell-tale ice crystals can prompt you to throw the entire brisket or chicken breast out.
But you don’t have to do that anymore! There are ways to get rid of the freezer burn taste and make your food taste great again.
Usually, the methods to get rid of freezer burn vary from food to food. However, there are a few general methods you can try for most foods.
Rehydrate the Food
Freezer burn is a type of dehydration. The moisture in your food has evaporated, leaving no moisture in the affected parts. This means it’s rubbery, and it can have a bad taste or no taste at all.
You can counteract this by rehydrating the food. Try using a brine – a salt soak – during thawing.
Don’t thaw the food quickly. Instead, defrost in your refrigerator or use a bowl of very cold water.
Brine the meat in salt and cook slowly at low temperatures. Try using a crockpot or a very low simmer to heat food slowly, restoring moisture and preventing further moisture loss.
Note that this method works best with meats, and doesn’t work well on fish.
Cut Off the Freezer-Burnt Parts
This method, however, works for all foods. When you notice that your food is freezer burnt, simply cut or scrape off the part that is dehydrated.
But what does freezer burn look like? Since it’s a type of dehydration, freezer burn presents itself as dry areas on the food.
You might see grey areas on meat, and ice crystals may be formed over part of the surface.
Thankfully, freezer burn usually doesn’t penetrate very deeply. It’s mostly a surface issue. You can eliminate all of the freezer burns by cutting less than an inch into the food.
If a lot of freezer burn is present, it’s better to discard the food.
Sometimes, you can save a cut of meat by seasoning it well. If you’re trying to avoid tasteless food with a rubbery texture, use more of the seasonings you’d normally use.
Alternatively, you can make those foods into soups, stews, and other slow-cooking, highly-seasoned recipes.
Seasoning can make all the difference. It won’t restore the taste of the food, but it will make it more palatable.
Common Freezer Burnt Foods and How to Restore Them
The following foods are typically freezer burnt more than others. Here are some ways to deal with freezer burn in these unique situations.
Freezer Burnt Beef and Poultry
Though you can try rehydrating beef and poultry first, it’s probably best to cut off the affected sections.
Chicken particularly reacts well to marinades. If all else fails, salvage what you can and use them in a stirfry, soup, or stew.
When removing freezer burn from ground beef, make your cuts before the meat is fully thawed.
Freezer burns usually turn meat an unappealing grey color, and large sections of ice crystals will be present on the surface. Chicken, especially, will have a leathery texture and lots of dry spots.
Freezer Burnt Fish
Fish is a little bit different. Fish that has been freezer burnt is immediately noticeable, as the taste and texture will be very off.
You can cut or flake off the freezer burnt parts if you want. If that removes too much of the fish, try a strong sauce or marinade to mask the flavor.
Freezer Burnt Bread
Bread can become freezer burnt as well. The bread will become tough, hard to chew, and taste terrible on the parts that are freezer burnt. You can attempt to soak the bread to get the flavor back during defrosting.
If that doesn’t work, you can also attempt to dehydrate the bread. Due to the nature of most bread, cutting off the affected parts might not be possible.
Freezer Burnt Fruits
Freezer burnt fruits are difficult to salvage because they have a high moisture content. They may look shriveled and be covered in those tell-tale ice crystals.
The best thing you can do to freezer burnt fruit is to dehydrate it. Dehydrated fruit slides can be tasty, and the flavor won’t be affected by freezer burn.
Freezer Burnt Vegetables
Vegetables that have been freezer burnt are usually shriveled and have a woody texture.
You can use them in sauces if they are salvageable, or simply puree them into ingredients for the rest of your meals.
Freezer Burnt Ice Cream
Ice cream is one of the most commonly freezer burnt foods across the country. Unfortunately, you can’t salvage the freezer burnt parts of your favorite ice creams. You can scrape the ice crystals off of the surface of the ice cream to start.
If the ice cream is badly burnt, you might need to use the ice cream in another dish. Milkshakes are a great way to use freezer burnt ice cream.
Freezer Burnt Fries
French fries are a great freezer treat, but how do you salvage freezer burns on french fries? You can cut off the areas of the fries that are affected.
Frying the french fries in oil or an air fryer can help restore moisture and can improve the taste. Try seasoning them lightly to keep them tasting great.
All About Freezer Burn
Now that you know how to counter the flavors associated with freezer burn, how do you prevent it? What is freezer burn and why does it affect food this way?
Freezer burn is caused by dry conditions in your freezer. It’s a type of dehydration that occurs when your food starts to lose frozen water.
It doesn’t revert to a liquid when it evaporates – instead, it forms ice crystals and flakes away.
We’ve been over how freezer burn looks on different foods – but how does it taste? Usually, freezer burn doesn’t taste like anything. It can taste bad, but this is rare – usually, it’s tasteless.
That’s part of the problem! It removes all of the good flavors from the food.
In some cases, the food can have a distinctly unpleasant taste. It’s difficult to describe, but most of us have experienced it before. The texture is often rubbery or woody, and also extremely unpleasant.
Are Ice Crystals on Frozen Food Bad?
Ice crystals don’t always mean that freezer burn is present. Some foods naturally form a thin layer of crystals as they are frozen, and it does not affect the taste.
When looking for freezer burn, keep an eye out for big areas of large, thick crystals. These areas should have corresponding grey or dry spots.
Can Freezer Burn Make You Sick?
The USDA agrees that freezer burn doesn’t make food unsafe. While it makes food taste and feels unpleasant, most freezer burnt food is still safe to eat.
There are three instances where freezer burnt food would not be safe to eat:
- It wasn’t fresh before you froze it
- You didn’t thaw it correctly (never use warm water or a microwave to thaw foods)
- Your freezer is not set to 0 F or less
As long as you’ve avoided these common mistakes, you have nothing to worry about. Freezer burn affects the quality of food rather than its safety.
Preventing Freezer Burn
Freezer burn is never a sure thing. There are a few ways that you can prevent freezer burn from ever happening in the first place.
Proper Freezer Storage
The first line of defense against freezer burn is proper storage. Make sure that no portion of your food is exposed to the freezer. Use freezer bags instead of plastic containers, and remove air as best you can.
For ice cream specifically, place plastic wrap under the lid of the container. This will help keep air out and keep your ice cream flavorful.
Keep Your Freezer Colder
The US Department of Agriculture recommends keeping your freezer set to at least 0 F to preserve food for longer. They recommend temperatures between -10 F and -20 F to maintain the quality of your food.
If you’re planning to store meat for long periods, these temperatures are especially important.
Use Food Sooner
If your food isn’t in your freezer for very long, it won’t have a chance to develop freezer burn.
Instead of storing a lot of food for a long time, consider purchasing only what you’ll use in the next couple of weeks or months.
It’s much easier to maintain food quality if you use the food as soon as you can.
Freezer burn has an unpleasant taste, texture, and can ruin your meals. However, there are still ways to salvage freezer burnt food. To prevent freezer burn, store food correctly and use it quickly.
Make sure that your food isn’t exposed to the dry conditions of your freezer.
However, simply getting rid of the burnt sections and slowly rehydrating your food can eliminate most of the unpleasant taste.
You may be interested in our guide on How To Get Rid Of Cooking Smells In Small Apartment.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.