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Query about frozen food


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I have an unanswered question on the "Cook your way through your freezer" thread here so I thought to rephrase the question more generally (and widely).

 

Reading on eGullet and elsewhere, it seems that meat frozen before cooking lasts 12-18 months, after cooking it lasts 12 months.

 

Why is that? I mean, why not 5 years? 

 

Many recipes for baked goods (like bread) say they're good for 3 months. What happens to bread in the freezer which doesn't happen to a cut of meat?

 

There are many soups in my freezer which have not been vacuum sealed which have been there a long time. I don't think there has been a degredation in flavour. But I admit, I'm not expecting one, so it's not so surprising that I don't find one. (I do recognize a big loss of flavour after about 3 weeks, but not so much between 3 months and 23 months).

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I think that if your food is well wrapped so there is little to no air contact, and you have a very cold freezer that is non-defrosting, you can store meat much longer.  My parents had a huge laydown freezer that was kept at like -15F and we commonly had meats and roasts that were a couple years old with no issues, and no freezer burn.  Standard refrigerator/freezers don't get cold enough, and the constant defrost cycle degrades the quality of long-stored things inside.

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I don't know... I've heard people complain about freezer taste (I'm not sure I know what that tastes like, but I think it has to do with oxidation or maybe fats going rancid), or dryness...

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Self defrosting freezers have heater wires embedded in the sides - they periodically turn on (while the compressor is off).  While it doesn't raise the temp of the freezer in general, anything located right next to the wall will definitely be affected more than it would be in a non-self defrosting freezer that has a much more stable (and usually lower) temperature.  Also, laydown freezers don't warm up nearly as much when the lid is opened than when an upright freezer has its door opened.

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To me "Freezer taste" is a sort of stale water, plastic flavor. I think its just a combination of all the gases produced by food slowly degrading. If ALL the food in the freezer is just wrapped (in cling film or anything else), or stored in plastic containers it will take on this taste. A freezer bag isn't generally sufficient because there will be air the bag. The air in the bag will allow ice crystals to form and the only place the water for the ice comes from is the food you are trying to preserve. The volatile taste chemicals will slowly leech out and in through the plastic and flavor everything else stored the same way.

If the items are vacuum sealed with a food saver type device they will not generally take up these tastes and ice crystals will not form.

As far as longevity goes I have kept roasts for 3 years (I have a chesty freezer at -20C) BUT I  only freeze produce that is at the START of its used by date. If its within 1~2 days of its use by or best by date then I consider its not for freezing  for more than a month.

If you buy cut price meat it may not be suitable for long term freezing. As a general rule supermarkets will drop the price to sell it quickly as its best by or use by date approaches.

 

As a matter of interest the best by & use by dates are a statistical analysis of the bacteria count, and its not about taste its about safety. They are generally worst case conditions, that is if people with immune compromise health were to eat the food. These people are the very young, the elderly and the sick. As bacteria multiply at a fairly predictable rate based on temperature and storage condition, it makes sense to freeze foods with the lowest starting bacteria counts.

As far as cooked foods apply, the same thing applies. Vacuum seal them when cold. You must cool the cooked food quickly though. The leftovers from a meal are not really suitable for long term storage, their bacteria counts will already be high from spending a good amount of time at the danger temperature ranges (room temperature to blood temperature as a rough guide)

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5 hours ago, KennethT said:

Self defrosting freezers have heater wires embedded in the sides - they periodically turn on (while the compressor is off).  While it doesn't raise the temp of the freezer in general, anything located right next to the wall will definitely be affected more than it would be in a non-self defrosting freezer that has a much more stable (and usually lower) temperature.  Also, laydown freezers don't warm up nearly as much when the lid is opened than when an upright freezer has its door opened.

I don’t think that’s exactly right. I’ve been led to understand that interior of the freezer defrosts by sublimation and the mechanics of the freezer, which are outside of the freezer chamber, defrost with heat. @dcarch?

Edited by gfweb (log)
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@gfweb I don't know. I've had many talks with engineers at many different appliance companies (part of what I do for work) and they seemed to intimate that the heater wires were there (located on the other side of the freezer's walls) to periodically warm up the walls to keep any ice from building up.

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1 minute ago, KennethT said:

@gfweb I don't know. I've had many talks with engineers at many different appliance companies (part of what I do for work) and they seemed to intimate that the heater wires were there (located on the other side of the freezer's walls) to periodically warm up the walls to keep any ice from building up.

Huh. Sounds authoritative. 

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Lay down freezers generally have their cooling coils around the sides, usually in the top half (heat rises so there is no need to have them in the bottom). The defrosting usually occurs the same way an air conditioner is able to heat. Basically refrigeration works by compressing a gas to a liquid (the resulting liquid is hot), cooling the liquid and then releasing it into the low pressure cooling coils where it turns back into a gas.

Instead of cooling the liquid, if you reroute it to the "cooling coils" you effectively heat them up. You only have to do this for a few minutes to melt any ice/frost on the walls which usually drains away. any product in the freezer is not exposed to the heat long enough to heat it.

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Some laydown freezers don't defrost at all - mine is a good example - I need to manually defrost it once in a while.

 

In the old days, all fridge/freezers defrosted by reversing the compressor sending warmth through the cooling coils... but that is very inefficient, so with the advent of energy star ratings, et al, as well as microprocessor controls (rather than timers), the industry moved to using heater wires - it's much more energy efficient than reversing the compressor.

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On 3/3/2019 at 11:42 AM, TdeV said:

@KennethT, thanks. What "issues", other than freezer burn, occur?

 

 

Food safety won't be an issue, because in that respect your "freezer life" is essentially infinite, as long as your power never goes out.

 

Freezer burn is the big one, and secondarily the potential to absorb odors from other foods in the freezer. Vacuum sealing is definitely your friend, though heavy-duty freezer bags work well enough if you're really, really diligent about extracting as much air as you can when you package your foods. It can also help to over-wrap with foil, or to enclose your vacuum-sealed bags in a heavy-duty zipper-seal freezer bag.

Prepared meals and ground meats are the quickest to become famine food, in my experience (ie you *could* eat it, but probably won't unless starvation is the option). If you have a big slab of frozen ground meat, you can sometimes salvage it by thawing it partially, scraping away the damaged exterior, and then allowing the relatively untainted interior to thaw the rest of the way. You'll still have a whiff of "off" flavor, but it's easily masked in something like a tomato sauce or garlic-heavy meatballs.

 

You can do the same with roasts or extra-thick steaks and chops. Thinner ones, of course, are just too difficult to shave the damaged layer from. If you have skin-on chicken pieces, the damage is sometimes confined to the skin of the chicken and removing that will salvage them.

 

Obviously, these are steps you'll only take if your circumstances warrant the investment in time and/or prohibit just dumping the food in your green bin and buying fresh. In my younger days, when I was feeding my family each month on what most people would consider a week's food budget, that was often the case.

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“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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On 3/3/2019 at 10:42 AM, TdeV said:

@KennethT, thanks. What "issues", other than freezer burn, occur?

 

I experienced a rancid pastry crust on a pot pie that had been in the freezer for a couple months.  Not packed airtight, so oxygen got to the fat in the crust and turned it.

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Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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