The freezer can be a lifesaver when it comes to food prep. Whether it’s that container of frozen mashed potatoes, a homemade pie or that slow cooker starter, frozen foods can be a lifesaver, but there’s always the risk of dreaded freezer burn. So what exactly is this icy crust composed of, and is the food still safe to eat?

Freezer burn occurs when foods dry out in cold temperatures. Those icy crystals are a result of moisture escaping your pint of ice cream or bag of chicken breasts and turning to ice on the outside of the food. This means either the food wasn’t stored properly, or it has been frozen for too long — everything dries out eventually.

But fear not, a little freezer burn never hurt anyone. It’s entirely safe to eat foods that have a little burn, though they might not be as tasty. Texture of freezer burnt foods typically change a bit, so your burger patties might not taste as great as they once did, but they’re still quality, edible food.

Avoiding Freezer Burn

If you’re not crazy about ice crystals on your food, the best thing you can do is prevent them from happening in the first place (for as long as possible anyway). Here are a few tips to follow:

  1. Remember to always wrap your food tightly in plastic wrap, then store your items in airtight containers. Look for specific high-quality plastic and glass freezer-safe containers.
  2. Make sure you let items cool before wrapping them up. Steam will cause extra condensation that will definitely speed up freezer burn.
  3. Pour liquids in single serving sizes, and make sure the contents completely fill the container. Extra space in the container promotes ice crystal growth.
  4. Make sure your freezer isn’t too stuffed with groceries or other containers. Cold air needs space to circulate to help keep the temperature around zero.
  5. Rotate your freezer often so you eat the older foods first. All foods will eventually get freezer burn, but if you eat them within a reasonable timeframe, you’ll be able to avoid most instances of freezer burn.

(h/t Taste of Home)

Also see, new tearless onions make kitchen prep less painful. 

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.