Everyone with a freezer has, at some point in their life, realized they forgot about something or poorly wrapped their food and the result is freezer burn.
It’s incredibly frustrating to find a beautiful piece of meat or a large collection of perfectly chopped veggies that have been attacked by the very air of your freezer.
How can you get rid of that freezer burn taste? While you can’t make freezer-burned food taste completely fresh, you can improve its taste by removing freezer-burned portions; using it in flavorful dishes with herbs, sauces, broths, or sugar; pureeing them; or in some cases, by dehydrating them.
The unfortunate reality is that you can’t totally “fix” freezer-burned food. But realistically, there are a lot of ways to hide the flavor.
If you pair freezer-burned food with the right ingredients or make the right meals with them, chances are pretty good you won’t notice the effects of freezer burn anymore. You don’t have to let perfectly safe food go to waste.
In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to treat various types of freezer-burned food so that you can get the most of out an unhappy situation as possible.
What is Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn happens when your food is exposed to air in the freezer and the combination of dehydration and oxidation creates brown or grey spots on your food.
It won’t make your food unsafe, but it does affect the flavor. You’ll enjoy your previously frozen food much more if you remove the freezer burn before eating it.
It’s important to understand that freezer burn is not the same as a build-up of ice on your food. Ice on your food is caused by moisture that freezes on the surface of your food.
This can damage the structure of your food, impact the moisture content of your food, and change the flavor. Often you have ice forming on freezer-burned food, but not all food that has a build-up of ice will be freezer burned.
This article is discussing freezer burn specifically, not a build-up of ice.
What Does Freezer Burn Look Like?
Freezer burn is a change in the color of your food, usually in just a specific area. Depending on what food is freezer burned, the color may be slightly different.
For example, on a steak, freezer burn will look like a brown spot amidst healthy red meat, whereas freezer-burned chicken breasts may be mostly tan in color with lighter splotches.
Fruit and vegetables can also be freezer burned and again, you’ll want to look for discoloration. Often the freezer-burned section is lighter than the good quality pieces of your food.
What Does Freezer Burn Taste Like?
The most common way to describe the taste of freezer burn is simply “not good.” It’s an unpleasant taste.
The moisture from your food has been removed which leaves your food dry and flavorless, though with an odd aftertaste that sticks around. It can impact the flavor of the rest of your meal.
Because freezer burn is the result of air exposure, it can sometimes make your food taste like other food that was frozen near it, if that food has strong flavors or aromas.
Bananas, for example, will share their flavor with anything and everything possible. If you have freezer burn on an item of food that was ever in proximity to frozen bananas, it will likely have a vaguely banana-like, dry, and odd aftertaste.
Does Freezer Burn Ruin Food?
Freezer burn certainly affects food, but “ruin” may depend on your tolerance levels to the flavor of your food.
Freezer burn can be removed and somewhat “fixed” in taste. Again, it doesn’t make your food unsafe; it just changes the taste and texture.
If your definition of “ruin” is about safety than no, freezer burn won’t ruin your food. But if your definition has more to do with how perfect the flavor is, then yes, you may feel it has been ruined.
What To Do With Freezer Burned Meat?
The easiest way to deal with freezer-burned meat is to simply cut out the highly discolored pieces. This will likely mean that you are left with odd shapes of meat or random chunks of meat.
Here are some ideas for how to use the non-burned portions:
- Pasta sauce
- Ground meat
There are plenty of other ways to make sure your meat gets properly enjoyed, but hopefully, that gives you a good starting point.
Another way to use freezer-burned meat is to make it into a broth or stock.
To do this you simply slow boil the meat with all your favorite herbs and seasonings. When you’re happy with the flavor, you strain the broth free from the meat and other ingredients. (You can reuse the meat in your next soup, too.)
If your freezer burn turkey, steak, pork, beef, or other meat is only slightly discolored, you may find that marinating the meat or soaking it in a sauce is enough to disguise the damaged portions.
Freezer Burned Fish
Much like meat, the best way to deal with freezer-burned fish is to cut out any of the dry, discolored portions.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to save some portions large enough to cook or fry as you originally intended. Otherwise flaking your fish is probably the easiest way to help it integrate into your recipe.
If your fish is just starting to discolor and the freezer burn is slight, you may be able to mask the dryness and flavor change by using a rich sauce.
This doesn’t work as well for meat or poultry, but fish soaks up flavor from sauces quite well. If you use potent flavors, it’ll probably do a good job.
Some good choices might be curry, citrus, or a thick tomato-based sauce, like for a seafood gumbo.
How To Remove Freezer Burn Taste From Vegetables
Freezer burned vegetables don’t taste as bad as freezer-burned meat or fish, so that’s the good news. However, because they’re generally smaller, it can sometimes be more difficult to tell until you taste the vegetable.
For example, you will easily see freezer burned sections of a large steak because only sections will be burned.
Green beans or sliced carrots, on the other hand, might be entirely freezer burned. So you don’t immediately notice the change in color because there’s nothing to directly compare it to.
If you know your vegetables are freezer burned, or that at least some of them are, try to remove the pieces that don’t look like they’re the right color.
Beyond removal, disguising, or diluting the flavor and dryness is your best solution.
Pureeing vegetables into a sauce or a smoothie, or adding small, bite-sized pieces to soup or stew are good options.
Adding fresh flavors can also help. So this is a great time to experiment with fresh herbs and plenty of onions and garlic.
Get Rid Of Freezer Burn Taste In Fruit
Fruit is one of the easier foods to rescue from freezer burn unless they’ve been store in your freezer for years and are beyond repair.
The most effective option is to rinse them until all the ice crystals are removed, slice, or chop your fruit into bite-sized pieces and dehydrate them.
Somehow, dehydration will eliminate the flavor of freezer burn. This will work for vegetables as well, though fruits are more commonly enjoyed dried.
Aside from dehydrating, you can also puree your fruit to use in smoothies, or add sugar and other flavors to create a sauce or syrup. Sugar will penetrate through nearly any unpleasant flavor, including freezer burn.
Freezer Burn Bread
Freezer burn on bread doesn’t always show in discoloration, but you will notice hard, dry sections of your bread.
Unfortunately, the unpleasant aftertaste that freezer burn leaves in your mouth is very noticeable in bread. So if you try to eat a slice or even make toast, you may regret it.
The best way to rescue freezer-burned bread is to either soak it or dry it out further.
By soaking it, we mean in a sweetened egg and milk batter that turns boring bread into decadent French toast. You can also try making bread pudding or using bread in another style of dessert.
The other option is to season your freezer-burned slices of bread and turn them into croutons or bread-crumbs.
How To Fix Freezer Burned Ice Cream
When ice cream gets freezer burn, it is usually just on the very surface of the container.
The best solution is to simply remove the potions of your ice cream where ice crystals developed. This should also remove any freezer burn flavor.
How To Get Rid Of Freezer Burn Chart
|Type of Food||Technique||Expected Result|
|Mead (turkey, chicken, pork, beef)||Cut off freezer burned sections||Completely fresh, as long as you get all the burned sections off|
|Fish||Cut off freezer burned sections or mask the taste with strong flavors in a sauce||Should be unnoticeable, depending on how burned the fish was|
|Vegetables||Puree and add fresh herbs and spices||Almost as good as fresh|
|Bread||Soak or dehydrate||Mostly unnoticeable, depending on how much of the bread was freezer burned|
|Ice Cream||Remove icy bits||Good as new|
How to Prevent Freezer Burn?
The best way to prevent freezer burn is to make sure your food is completely protected from exposure to air.
Using a freezer-safe sealable bag is quite reliable. Just be sure you press out as much air as possible and that the seal does not break accidentally in the freezer.
If you want to protect against freezer burn better, you may want to invest in a vacuum sealer, like this Foodsaver sealer and starter kit including bags and rolls.
This will suck every last bit of air away from your food before mechanically sealing the plastic directly around the food. This can extend the quality life of your food for up to 3 years in your freezer, without worry from freezer burn.