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Spring Cleaning Part Two: The Freezer
Now that you cleaned out your refrigerator, let’s work on the freezer. I think the freezer is also a highly neglected area of the kitchen. We tend to stuff food in there, never to be thought about again for months or years!
Freezer burn is simply drying out of the food. It usually happens because something was improperly wrapped and moisture has escaped. Water particles are literally moving from the piece of food to the side of the freezer, oxygen comes in, and the food turns white and very dry. It is not necessarily bad for you to eat freezer burned food, but the quality definitely goes down. To prevent freezer burn, make sure your food is wrapped tightly. I think the freezer grade plastic bags work well. Try to get all air out of it when you are ready to store it.
One important thing to remember is that, just like the fridge, bacteria is not killed in the freezer. The growth of bacteria is halted while it is in that temperature, but not killed. Do not thaw foods on the counter because as soon as the food gets to higher than 40 degrees, that bacteria comes out of hibernation and starts multiplying! Proper thawing is essential! Thaw in cold water in the sink, in the fridge, or on the thaw setting on your microwave only!
Also, do not refreeze raw meats. Once a meat has been thawed, it needs to be cooked within 24 hours. You can refreeze it once it has been cooked, but not if it has been thawed and is still in the raw state.
Rule of thumb: Nothing should stay in your freezer longer than one year! I know your grandma used to keep things for 10 years, but I am telling you that quality and safety is severely compromised! Make sure you date packages when you put them in the freezer so you know how long it has been there.
Here are some common freezer foods and their shelf life:
- Steaks, raw: 6-12 months
- Ground Meat, raw: 4 months
- Poultry,whole: 12 months
- Poultry, pieces (breast): 9 months
- Meats, cooked: 4 months
- Ham, cured: 4 months
- Ham, sliced, cooked: 1-2 months
- Sausage: 1-2 months
- Shrimp: 12 months
- Fish, raw: 6 months
- Vegetables: 10-12 months
- Grapes: 1 month
- Cheese: 6 months
- Bread products: 2 months
- Egg substitute: 12 months
Image courtesy of chippenziedeutch