Have you ever wondered what happened to a steak in the freezer
that looks discolored and parched? It is covered in frost and there
are dry spots on the meat tissue. It looked fine when you froze
it a few months ago. What caused this transformation?
When food is frozen as a method of preservation, thousands and
thousands of water molecules within the steak form ice crystals.
These water molecules prefer the most hospitable environment- the
coldest place in your freezer. The molecules migrate from the steak
to the coldest place they can find, which is often the side of
your freezer. The loss of these water molecules causes the steak
to become dehydrated. The end result is freezer burn.
So why did this happen?
- Most likely, your food was not tightly wrapped enabling
water molecules to escape and seek a better location.
- Also, freezer burn is likely to occur for items stored in
the freezer too long. There is a limit to how long items should
be stored in
the freezer. Sooner or later the water molecules will find
their way out of the frozen food to a colder place in your
(See Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart listed in Web
- The temperature of your freezer may have been above 0 degrees
F. Freezer burn will set in from fluctuating temperatures
When water molecules escape from your frozen food, it is also
possible for oxygen molecules to seep in. The oxygen molecules
can dull the color and modify the flavor of your frozen product.
Food that has freezer burn is safe to eat, but you may find the
texture and taste not to your liking. Listed below are Web sites
that provide freezing tips so that your frozen food will be in
first-rate condition to serve to your friends and family.
food technology. Edited by C.P. Mallett. London, Blackie
Academic & Professional, 1993. 339 p.
Susan. Preventing freezer burn. Rodale's organic
gardening, v. 33, July 1986: 72-75.
in frozen food. Edited by Marilyn C. Erickson and Yen-Con
Hung. New York, Chapman and Hall, c1997. 484 p.
M. Shafiur. Food preservation by freezing. In Handbook
of food preservation. Edited by M. Shafiur Rahman. New
York, Marcel Dekker, c1999: p. 259-284.
Wolke, Robert L. Burn, baby, freeze! In What Einstein
told his cook. New York, W. W. Norton and Co., c2002:
more print resources...
Search on "cold
storage," "cookery frozen
foods," "frozen foods," or "home freezers"
in the Library of Congress Online
Example of freezer burn on hamburger.
Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of
Agriculture Web site.
"Old Man Winter comes to the refrigerator." Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Cutting meats before freezing. Co-op cold storage lockers. Casselton, North Dakota. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
W.C. Wicks, residence on Route 1, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Mr. Wicks at freezer. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Wrapping up cuts of meat which will be put in freezing room, cold storage lockers. Casselton, North Dakota. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.