Can Freezer Burned Food Make You Sick?

If you love home cooking, chances are you frequently make use of your refrigerator's freezer, where leftover soups, stews, breads, and cut fruits and veggies can be held for enjoyment at a later date. Modern freezers are remarkably effective at extending the shelf life of many of the foods and ingredients we love, and items such as frozen fruit, unsalted butter, whole poultry, and steaks can last a remarkably long time, from eight months to up to a year, according to the Independent.

But, although many foods can be safely stored in the freezer for many months, it's almost guaranteed that any long-frozen food will acquire at least a little bit of freezer burn. So, if you're taking a freezer inventory and noticing that some of your dishes or ingredients have acquired a layer of those fine, frosty ice crystals (via Epicurious), you might be wondering if they're actually safe to eat.

Freezer burn will not make you sick

Freezer burn is what happens when food loses moisture as it's stored in the freezer, according to Kitchn. Moisture loss happens to all frozen food, though it's mitigated if the food is well-packaged and wrapped tightly to keep out air as much as possible. As air gets in, moisture seeps out, leading to that frosty and discolored appearance. And though freezer-burned food doesn't look appealing, it's perfectly safe to consume.

As explained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), freezer burn does not make foods unsafe to eat or increase the risk of foodborne illness: As long as a frozen food is consumed within its safety window, which you can look up at, it's perfectly fine to eat. What freezer burn does affect is the taste and texture of the food, with meats suffering the most: They'll likely have an off flavor and a dry or grainy texture, according to WebMD. The USDA recommends cutting off badly freezer-burned parts of meat either before or after cooking, if you can; otherwise, Well+Good suggests cooking freezer-burned meats slowly in broth and flavoring them with herbs in order to balance those off-flavors and textures. And, the next time you store your favorite foods in the freezer, be sure to prepare them adequately, making use of zip-top plastic bags and plastic wrap in order to keep out as much air as possible (via Cooking Light).