We love our freezers! They’re the perfect place to store leftovers, batch-cooked meals for the family, homemade stock and sweet treats for summer. The USDA says that food kept at a temperature of 0 degrees F will always be safe to eat (even ten years from now!) but the quality and texture of the food will have changed in a way that’s probably doesn’t taste very nice.
However, not everyone’s freezer will keep that consistent 0 degrees temperature, so here’s 7 ways to tell that something has gone bad in the freezer.
1. Ice crystals in the packaging
If you find ice crystals inside your ziplock bags, that’s a sign of freezer burn. This happens as water molecules in the food work their way out towards colder areas of the freezer. The food is still technically safe to eat, but the loss of moisture means that the taste and texture wont’ be great when you do eat it. Freezer burn can also be a sign of changing temperatures in your freezer.
2. Proteins changing color
If your red meat has turned a gray-brown or pork is dark brown or gray, then look out – the color changes mean they’ve come into contact with air, which means they’ll be dry and leathery – although still technically safe to eat.
3. Dull-looking vegetables
Frozen green veggies that have been stored for too long lose their bright colors, as do other, cooked foods. If this happens, it’s a sign that they’re drying out due to bad packaging or for being stored too long.
4. Mystery packages you don’t remember putting in the freezer
Have you ever come across a ziplock bag with mystery contents and no date or description on? You could have put it in the freezer a month or a year ago, for all you remember! Get into the habit of dating and labelling your food before you put it in the freezer, and you won’t leave it in there to deteriorate in quality.
5. Evidence of spills
If you see pooling liquid at the bottom of your freezer, that’s a bad sign – especially if the liquid is pinkish-looking meat juices. It could mean your freezer has warmed up somehow, which caused a thaw, or juices dripped down before the item was fully frozen. If it’s thawed meat causing the problem, throw it away, and make sure the juices haven’t contaminated any other items on the shelves below.
6. Something smells rancid or off
You may not notice the smell until the food is thawed, but if it smells bad then don’t risk eating it – especially meat and seafood.
7. Defrosted food feels sticky or slimy
Once the food is thawed, check the texture. If it is sticky or slimy, it’s probably gone bad and you should throw it away.