Some of us college students practically live on frozen food. Frozen food convenient, easy to store, and lasts a long time. However, after a while, these weird ice crystals start to form on the packaging and on the surface of food. What do ice crystals on frozen food mean? How do these crystals form? Does it mean your food has gone bad? 

Freezer Burn

There is actually a name for this condition in which ice crystals form on frozen food: freezer burn. Freezer burn is the result of air coming into contact with food. When food is frozen, a bunch of water molecules within the food form ice crystals.

Water molecules prefer the coldest place in your freezer. The molecules migrate from the food to the coldest place they can find, which is often the side of your freezer. The loss of these water molecules causes the food to become dehydrated. 

Is It Safe To Eat Freezer-Burned Food?

strawberry, sweet, berry, candy, frozen strawberries, smoothie, chia seeds, ice, blender
Caroline Ingalls

The good news is that freezer burn doesn’t cause illness. While the color changes and dry spots that freezer burn creates may not look appetizing, freezer burned food is completely safe to eat.

After a long day of classes, you deserve as quality of a frozen dinner as possible. If the freezer-burned area of the food is small, you can cut it off before or after cooking to preserve the quality of your meal. However, the damage is extensive, consider tossing out the food. 

How To Prevent Freezer Burn

sweet, berry, blueberry
Jocelyn Hsu

The biggest challenge when it comes to frozen food is keeping it frozen on your way home from the store. When the frozen food you just bought starts to thaw, this can cause freezer burn.

One obvious way to prevent this early thawing is to purchase your frozens at stores nearest you so they get home faster. Another way is to keep a cooler full of ice in the car.

vegetable, pea, frozen peas, legume, broccoli, cabbage
Katherine Baker

Most frozen foods should maintain their quality in the freezer for six months to a year. If you find that your frozen foods are developing freezer burn sooner than that, there are some preventative measures. 

It is important that your food (especially meat) is properly wrapped or packaged. Try to seal up open boxes, or keep the food in freezer bags with the air squeezed out. If you're using containers, it is important that they are labeled as freezer-safe.

Other Freezing Tips 

beer, tea, coffee, cake
Smita Jain

One freezing tip is to not freeze too many things at once. It’s best not to overload your freezer by making it do too much work at once. This can actually make your freezer warm up and cause freezer burn.

Another tip is to have an organization method. Put the foods that have been in the freezer the longest towards the top, and the newer foods at the bottom. Use a freezer log and label. 

Freezer burn is an existent oxymoron. Maybe think twice next time you see little ice crystals in that Lean Cuisine you bought way back at the beginning of the school year.