Freezer burn is one of the most irritating things that can happen to the food you have carefully put aside and frozen. A lot of people know the disappointment that accompanies pulling food out of the freezer and discovering this kind of burn. That may leave you wondering, what does freezer burn taste like, and can the taste be eliminated?
Freezer burn doesn’t have a taste of its own, but instead creates a sort of dry unpleasantness that will linger in your mouth even after consumption. Freezer burn tends to suck most of the flavor out of the food. Fortunately, by rehydrating the food in brine, you can mitigate freezer burn.
It’s always frustrating when you have to throw away good food just because of freezer burn – which is why we’re going to look at what freezer burn is, how to prevent it, and how to reverse it when it happens.
What Is Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn occurs when the freezing process damages the surface of your food. You have probably seen it appear whenever food has been left exposed in the freezer. It is a white frosting of ice that can cover whole sections of the food, and it makes it look very unappetizing. Freezer burn can have the following effects on your food stored in the freezer:
- Making it dry and tasteless
- Creating big or small splotches on the surface: these may be yellow, gray, brown, white, cream, or any other light color
- Making it tough and leathery
- Making it tasteless or bland, with a slightly odd after-taste that is not pleasant
- Making it brittle and easy to snap
Freezer burn is a particularly big issue when it comes to meats, where you really need the moisture to remain in the food for cooking. However, it can affect any kind of food that you put in the freezer. Any light discoloration is a sign that the food has been affected.
Freezer burn will also sometimes cause your food to take on the flavor of anything else that is stored near to it in the freezer. This is particularly likely if the other food has a strong taste, such as smoked fish. You might find that your chicken has a decidedly fishy aroma, which is not pleasant at all.
Do I Need To Throw Freezer Burnt Food Away?
No, you don’t. Freezer burn does not make the food unsafe to eat. All that has changed is the moisture has gone out of that part of the food, leaving it desiccated and bland tasting. However, a lot of people seriously dislike the taste and texture of freezer-burned food and will throw any food items affected away.
This can be a problem if you’re cooking on a budget and especially if expensive foods like meat get freezer burnt. Rather than tossing an entire steak in the garbage, you might be wondering what your options are for saving it.
You can just cook it and eat it, and it won’t do you any harm. However, you will find that it is dry and does not taste very nice – so that leaves you looking for ways to improve it.
How To Fix Freezer Burn Taste
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to completely reverse freezer burn, but there are a few methods you can try for getting rid of most of the bad taste and texture. It may be worth researching the specific food you wish to save because methods can vary to a degree, but I’ll cover some tips that should work for pretty much all food types.
Method 1) Rehydration Improves The Taste & Texture of Freezer Burn
Because freezer burn means that the moisture in the food has evaporated, one simple fix involves putting the moisture back – as much as you can. This will not completely solve the issue, but it can help, and it will improve both the taste and the texture.
If you notice something has become freezer burnt, your best chance of reversing this lies in the thawing process. Instead of simply putting the food in the fridge to defrost, you should thaw it in a brine soak.
This will add both salt and water to the food, rehydrating it and making it taste better. To do this, you should:
- Make a brine soak by mixing a tablespoon of salt with every cup of water that you need in order to completely submerge the food.
- Place the food in the brine solution, and then put it in the fridge to thaw. It will take several hours, even for small food portions, to thaw in this way, but the surface should absorb the water and salt. This rehydrates freezer-burnt food and adds some of the flavor back to it.
- When you are ready to cook the food, take it out of the brine solution and give it a rinse, and then cook it as normal.
This method works best with meats and other foods that go well with salt.
Method 2) Add Seasonings To Freezer-Burned Food to Enhance Taste
Because freezer burn sucks a lot of the flavor out of the food, you may find that cooking it with some rich herbs and spices helps. This will at least disguise the flavor, and the texture may not be too much of an issue for some people.
Whatever seasonings you usually use in your dishes will work just bump up the amount of seasonings used so that the foods are infused with plenty of flavor. You might want to try a salt or herb rub before you start cooking the food, or just add more herbs or spices than you would usually include for any particular dish.
In some cases, you may find that fat helps to improve the texture and reduce dryness, so rub a bit of olive oil or butter onto the food before you cook it. It won’t completely rectify the texture, but it may help.
Method 3) Cut Off The Burnt Parts To Remove Freezer Burn Taste
A lot of people simply slice off the burnt parts of their food before preparing it. This is often the simplest way, especially if the freezer burn is on the surface and hasn’t penetrated deep into the food. Even if it has penetrated, you can still cut around it and save the good areas of the meat.
Remember that freezer burnt food is still safe to eat, so you don’t need to worry about missing any tiny areas. These will be unnoticeable in the finished dish and don’t pose any health risks. You can cut off the main burnt areas and enjoy the rest.
This works well with vegetables, which you are likely to be cutting up anyway. It can work well with meat, but it may leave you with lots of meat scraps, rather than useful pieces. If this happens, the best way to use them up is to put them in a stew or soup or use them like ground meat.
Add freezer burned pieces of beef, chicken, or pork to your latest curry or soup, and you should be able to enjoy them just as much as you would have without the freezer burn. If you like, you could also experiment with making your own stock using the freezer burnt parts, but you will need other flavors in there too.
Method 4) Make Stew With Freezer Burn Meats and Vegetables
As mentioned above, you can use the remaining good parts of your meat and vegetables to create a stew, but if the freezer burn isn’t too bad, consider including the freezer burnt parts too, rather than cutting them off.
In a large stock pot, they will generally disappear, melding into the flavors provided by the other ingredients. This is a great way to use up freezer burnt meat without really tasting it or noticing its texture. Cut it up small and make sure you season it well.
The rest of your ingredients should carry the freezer burnt food, allowing you to make the most of it and avoid food waste.
How Can You Prevent Freezer Burn?
Of course, prevention is generally better than cure, and if you can stop food from getting freezer burnt in the first place, you’ll enjoy much nicer food, and minimize the need to throw any away. You won’t need to mess around with extra brining, rubbing, or seasoning either.
There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of freezer burn occurring, so let’s explore these next.
Tip 1) Minimize Temperature Fluctuations
When the temperature of the food fluctuates frequently, there’s a higher risk of freezer burn occurring. This is because the food in the freezer will slightly thaw and then re-freeze, constantly pulling more moisture to the surface.
You should try to minimize how often you open the freezer door and close it as soon as you can. Keep foods as close to the back of the freezer as possible.
Tip 2) Seal Food Well
The less air your food is exposed to, the less likely it is to burn. Make sure your foods are all kept in sealed containers, such as freezer bags or good plastic containers, and the risk of burning will be reduced.
Some people feel that sealer bags provide the best possible protection against freezer burn, but on the whole, plastic containers will be fine if you seal the lids properly and don’t leave your food in the freezer for long periods.
Tip 3) Use Food Up Quickly
Freezer burn tends to occur gradually, so using food up fast reduces the risks. Try to cycle old food to the front of your freezer and eat it before you eat new food.
What Freezer Burn Tastes Like – Conclusion
Freezer burn doesn’t taste like much in most cases, but it ruins the texture of your food and makes it bland. You can sometimes reverse freezer burn through brining and heavy seasoning, but it’s better to prevent it if possible.