It’s extra hot outside, but that doesn’t have to bother you — mostly because it’s the perfect excuse to enjoy an extra scoop of ice cream. (Is there really anything better than ice cream on a hot summer day?) But before you go and load your freezer full of pints of your favorite flavors, you may want to consider how you’re handling that frozen treat. Ice cream is a perishable product, and it needs to be treated with care.
Whether ice cream lasts in your house a few days or a few months (who are these people?), you should pay attention to how you’re storing and handling it.
Of course the easiest way to deal with ice cream is buying it and eating it in one sitting. (You may take this as your permission to do so — after all, food waste is a huge concern nowadays.) But, if you’re looking to maintain that bikini body for summer, you may have to save a little for later. These tips are for you.
Here are the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of ice cream care:
Do: Make the ice cream aisle your last stop at the supermarket.
When ice cream is exposed to temperatures above 10ºF, the texture and flavor can start to quickly change, according to the International Ice Cream Association. Minimize the time your ice cream is out of the freezer buy adding it to your cart at the last minute. Place it next to other frozen foods in the cart. Ideally, you’ll also insulate your ice cream in a cooler for the ride home, or ask the cashier for an additional brown bag to wrap it in. And of course, go straight home, meaning don’t stop for any other errands while the ice cream sits in the car.
Don’t: Allow ice cream to soften and refreeze.
When ice cream’s melts and refreezes, that’s how the unpleasant freezer burn taste starts to set in and those ice crystals start to take over. Eventually, freezer burn will leave you with large, inedible lumps. Keeping ice cream at a consistent, frozen temperature is the most important tip of them all.
Do: Pay attention to freezer temperature.
So, what consistent temperature should ice cream be stored at? Your home freezer should be set between -5ºF and 0ºF. The ideal temperature for scooping is between 6ºF and 10ºF.
Don’t: Ignore your grocer’s freezer temperature!
It may seem nitpicky, but you wouldn’t buy any other grocery item if you knew the content had been damaged. Ice cream is perishable, and checking the temperature in the grocer’s freezer case can alert you if your ice cream has been damaged. The temperature should not be above -20ºF.
Do: Ignore the door.
The freezer door may be the perfect width for a tub of ice cream, but resist! Ice cream should be stored in the main part of the freezer. Temperatures in the door fluctuate too much with all of the opening and closing.
Don’t: Allow air to share the space.
Use plastic wrap to help prevent ice crystals. Keeping the lid tightly sealed on your ice cream helps combat freezer burn, but once you’ve started scooping, air pockets (read crystal-forming moisture) will form in the container. Secure a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper directly to the surface of the ice cream, and then put the lid on top.
Do: Scoop from the edge.
Ice cream softens from the outside in, so the easiest place to start scooping is along the edge of the container. Also, avoid letting melted ice cream from the edge fall into the ice cream still well-frozen in the middle.
Don’t: Let ice cream sit out too long.
Three minutes is the ideal time to let ice cream sit on the counter before scooping. Any less, and it may be too hard. Any more, and you risk making soup.
Do: Flip your pint for freshness.
If your ice cream does become a bit melty, flipping it allows those drips to fall into the lid rather than refreezing and letting freezer burn spread to the rest of the good stuff.