Freezer burn is a sign that frozen food has been in contact with air and lost some of its moisture. On meat, it shows up as grayish-brown, dehydrated spots, according to Kathy Walsten, nutrition educator with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
"If you have a piece of meat that is slightly freezer-burned, you can cut off the damaged area after or preferably before cooking," Walsten said. "When meat is badly freezer-burned, though, I'd say throw it away. Its texture and flavor won't be good."
When cooked, freezer-burned meat tends to be tough and to taste either bland or rancid, she said.
The nutritionist added that freezer burn has two major causes: The food wasn't properly wrapped. Or, the food was in storage for an extended time.
Walsten recommends preventing the condition in meat by storing purchases in their original wrapping in the freezer for no more than a matter of days. To extend the time meat can remain frozen without "burning":
- Enclose the meat in its original wrapping, overwrapping the whole package in aluminum foil, heavy freezer paper or freezer-weight plastic zip-closed bags. Or,
- Take the meat out of its original wrapper and enclose it in special freezer-type paper or in a freezer-weight plastic zip-closed bag.
"To keep storage times from getting out of bounds, it's also a good idea to label anything you store in the freezer with the name of the food and the date you put it in," Walsten said.
K-State lists its recommended storage times for all kinds of refrigerated and frozen foods on the World Wide Web at www.oznet.ksu.edu.