Avoid the Burn: Freezer Hacks to Keep it Colder Longer

Avoid the Burn: Freezer Hacks to Keep it Colder Longer

Have you ever been so hungry you thought about chipping a bag of tater tots out of the freezer? You know, the bag that’s been there since before the last ice age? 

What would happen if you did eat them? Probably nothing. They might taste like cardboard, though. 

Freezer burn turns tasty frozen foods into limp, bland fare. It happens when cold air works its way into a container that isn’t air tight. The cold air reacts with oxygen, and sucks the moisture right out of the food. Instead, the food is left covered in telltale ice crystals.

How can you curb the burn and keep your frozen foods fresh and delicious? Here are some tried-and-true hacks.

Smooth and Creamy
That’s the way you want to keep your ice cream, right? Remember these tips:

  • Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of opened ice cream, then replace the lid.
  • Store ice creams in the main freezer section, not the door. Opening and closing the freezer door exposes foods in the door to temperature changes.
  • Ice cream is best when you eat it soon after purchase, but can be keep frozen for two months.

Meaty Matters

  • Proteins are among today’s most expensive food purchases. Know their freezer expiration date so you can enjoy them while they’re fresh and flavorful.
  • A whole chicken can be frozen for up to a year. Individual pieces (legs, wings, thighs) should be used within six to nine months.
  • Fatty fish like salmon can be frozen for two to three months. Lean fish like cod or flounder will last up to six.
  • Ground meat (beef, lamb, pork) keeps for two or three months. Roasts, steaks, and chops can be frozen for at six months.
  • Fruits and vegetables can be frozen eight to 12 months and still taste fine.

Freeze These Favorites
Many foods freeze very well and can be enjoyed at a later time. Use these easy freezer hacks.

Fresh Berries
Wash berries, pat dry and arrange on eight to a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer until the berries are frozen, then pack them in airtight containers. Take out what you need for recipes and return the rest to the freezer.

Bread freezes well for up to six months when wrapped in plastic, then foil. To crisp the crust, remove the bread from its wrapping, thaw and heat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes.

Wrap pies in plastic, then foil. If the pie has a sticky filling that’s hard to wrap, freeze it before you wrap it.

Parsley, chives and basil freeze well. Wash the herb, shake, then pat dry with paper towels. Mince it and freeze in a plastic container. Fresh ginger root also keeps well in the freezer. Place it in a plastic bag and store in the freezer.

Coffee cubes
Want to cool your coffee or add more flavor and strength? Pour coffee into an ice cube tray. Chill in the freezer for three to four hours, then remove the cubes and store in freezer bag.

Keep Them Fresh, Not Frozen
Some foods just aren’t meant to be frozen and thawed. Here are a few to avoid:

Vegetables: Celery, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes (especially raw), radishes, sprouts and salad greens

Fruit: Apples, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and watermelon

Dairy: Cheese (especially soft varieties), cottage cheese, cream cheese, custard, eggs in shells, mayonnaise, sour cream and salad dressings

Other: Crumb toppings on casseroles and baked dishes, frosting (egg white and cream based), fried foods, pasta, rice, sauces – especially those made with cornstarch or flour

Always Keep Your Cool
Maintain a freezer temperature of 0 °F or below – cold enough to freeze ice cream rock solid. Food quality decreases at temperatures above 0 °F.

  • Freezer temperatures prevent bacteria from growing, but do not kill them. As foods thaw, they can become unsafe because bacteria that cause food-borne illness may grow. It’s best to thaw foods in the refrigerator.
  • Use freezer foil, plastic wrap or freezer bags to store foods. Freezer paper and containers are other options.

For extra convenience, label your frozen foods. Include the date, food type, weight or number of servings.

Do you have some tried-and-true freezer hacks? Share them with us in the comments.

Sources: What to Know About Freezer Burn and Meat, leaving site icon WebMD, 2021; Freezer Burn: Why It Happens and Tips to Prevent It, leaving site icon Healthline, 2020; How Long Foods Really Last in the Freezer, leaving site icon Chatelaine, 2021; 50 Freezable Foods That Will Save You Time and Money, leaving site icon Andrea Decker, 2019; 13 Foods You Shouldn’t Put in the Freezer, leaving site icon All Recipes, 2022; Are You Storing Your Food Safely? leaving site icon U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2021.

Originally published 8/21/2015; Revised 2023