What Is Freezer Burn?
The Food Scientist answers vexing food questions
Meat tastes best when it’s fresh, of course. But sometimes, it’s more economical to buy in bulk and freeze what you don’t use. Even the best chefs will tell you that quick-freezing fresh meats is an easy way to cut costs and still turn out delicious food, any day of the week. The key to freezing fresh chops and steaks is in the packaging. Without the proper packaging, your meat is subject to one of the deadliest meat-related diseases out there: freezer burn.
Freezer burn is what happens when air reacts with your foods in cryo and causes them to become dry and oxidized. While some meats, like chicken, are affected mostly by the drying effects of freezer burn, others like beef are most affected by the harsh process of oxidation. But how? Iron molecules in blood are responsible for giving fresh red meat it’s crimson color. Through the process of oxidation, the iron undergoes a chemical change, one that alters the taste and color of the meat. Instead of appearing a natural red hue, that has-been juicy flank steak takes on a dark brown hue — read: not appetizing.
Drying out is the other concern with freezer burn. This occurs through a process called sublimation, where evaporation takes place inthe freezer. Hard to believe, but it’s actually possible for ice to evaporate, and it happens with food that’s been left to chill in the freezer for way too long.
Although it’s actually safe to eat frozen “burnt” foods, it’s definitely not ideal; you'll know this if you've ever tried to salvage freezer-burned ice cream or vegetables. Therefore, take a lesson in Freezer Burn Prevention 101: make sure all foods to-be-frozen are done so tightly in airtight containers, like zip-top bags.