Ever pull a package of meat out of the freezer and find a funny-colored (usually dark) spot on it? Yep, you’ve got freezer burn.
Freezer burn occurs when a freezer package isn’t full air tight, and the contents dehydrate. It’s most noticeable on meat and vegetables, but can occur with anything. It can occur is a package rips or comes open, or just by using thin plastic bags that air can slowly permeate (that’s why freezer bags are heavier plastic than “regular” plastic bags).
Using a vacuum sealer (or buying commercially vacuum sealed packages of meats) is one way of preventing freezer burn. Another way is to put meat in Ziploc freezer bags, squish all the air out or suck it out with a straw, then zip the bag and seal it shut with duct tape.
For fish and seafood, particularly if you won’t be eating it in just a few days, vacuum sealing is best, although I’ve also had good results by leaving some water in a Ziploc with the item (I particularly do this with clams and scallops, even when vacuum sealing). This prevents the cold air from reaching the seafood and drying it out.
So, what to do if you’ve got some freezer burn. The good news is that the food itself is perfectly safe — it’s just dry. The bad news is that you might need to use it differently than you originally intended. It’s not going to taste good — or have a good texture — if you grill it or otherwise use dry heat to cook it. But slow moist cooking? Perfect — you won’t notice a problem!
Here are a few ideas on how to use foods that have been freezer burned. Yes, it hurts to use what was a nice steak as stew meat, but it’s better than throwing it out!
- Beef: make into a pot roast, stew or soup
- Ground beef: use in chili or spaghetti
- Chicken: make stewed chicken, soup, gumbo or a moist casserole
- Pork: carnitas are great as is pulled pork
- Fish and seafood: soups, stews and gumbos; can also sort of “hide” the texture by making into fish/seafood cakes (fish and seafood are the hardest to rescue as they are so delicate and need little cooking).
- Vegetables: soups, stews and casseroles
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