Dear Home Ec 101,
How long does food keep in the freezer, after the expiration date? When should it be tossed in the garbage?
Chillier in Chicago
Thank you for your cool question in these dog days of summer. It’s so hot that. . . no, I won’t go there. Your question has many different answers based on several variables: the type of freezer, how it is packaged, and the type of food. Standalone freezers whether chest or upright will keep foods much colder and therefore fresher than the freezer in your combination fridge / freezer.
Air is the enemy of frozen food. The conditions in your freezer are quite dry. If food is exposed to the air the moisture will evaporate destroying your food’s quality. To get the longest shelf life possible, it is important to remove as much air as possible before storing. Both vacuum sealers and heavy duty freezer paper are great options. Finally some foods are more delicate than others and their quality will continue to degrade even in the freezer. Check out What’s Cooking America for a great chart explaining the refrigerator and freezer shelf life for many foods.
Finally, remember that freezer burn isn’t dangerous, it’s just not pleasant.
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