Is It Safe To Eat Freezer Burned Food?

It can be a big let down when those meal prep dishes you've been counting on using for a quick, weeknight dish have a coating of freezer burn on them. While the freezer burned food can look questionable, you may not have to toss it out just yet.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service says freezer burn doesn't necessarily make food unsafe, but is mostly a quality issue (via Food Network). Freezer burn causes dry, grayish-brown spots that can be cut off before or after cooking the food. If your item appears to be mostly freezer burned, you may want to forego cooking it, as the quality won't be ideal.

How does the elusive freezer burn occur? Experts tell Well + Good that freezer burn happens when moisture inside of the freezer makes its way into the packaging and collects on food, forming a layer of unappetizing frost. 

You can prevent freezer burn from creeping into your food by being sure to package it in airtight containers or reinforcing meat and poultry in its package with aluminum foil. You can freeze most foods, however, there may be some texture changes in dairy products, cream sauces, or lettuce, according to Food Network.

When to be cautious about freezer burned food

Although most foods can still be consumed while freezer burned, you will want to use caution if you took your food out of the freezer, left it on the counter at room temperature for a while and then returned it to the freezer. In that time out of the freezer, bacteria could form, especially if it was 60 degrees or warmer, according to Well + Good.

It is also important to note that freezing food does not kill bacteria, but instead inactivates it (via the Food Network). That means that when you thaw the food, the microorganisms can develop under the right conditions, potentially making you sick.

The good news is that for the most part, your freezer burned food is perfectly safe to eat — it just may not be as tasty as it once was. You can also try putting freezer burned foods in a smoothie, and for other dishes, you can try spicing them up with additional seasonings to battle the lackluster flavor.