For 25 points, identify the following protein:
Didn’t think so…
But seriously folks, and as the title alluded, I speak mostly to the gentlemen, since it is us who stuff said freezers with all things good and delicious; that is, until we forget what’s in there and let ’em go faaaar too long…
Late winter is a perfect time to get into that beast, inventory what’s there with a critical eye, toss what needs to be tossed and cook what must be cooked before it too goes to the great beyond.
This line of reasoning naturally brooks the question, “Can food go bad in the freezer?” The answer to which is a definite ‘Yup!’
Keep in mind that freezing does not kill bacteria, yeast, mold, etc, it just pretty much keeps them from multiplying. In other words, if there was something funky prior to freezing, it could indeed reappear when thawed. Additionally, freezing does not do any favors for food quality, taste, etc; over time, great stuff will become good and good stuff, well… You get the picture.
So how long should you leave stuff in the freezer before the quality starts to degrade? Depends on what it is! For answers to this and other burning freezer questions, (Sorry), hop on over to the USDA’s Food Safety site and read for yourself; there’s a handy chart at the bottom of this freezer article that details recommended freezer storage guidelines. You’ll also find the National Center For Home Food Preservation a wealth of good info, so scope that out too.
In general terms, when cleaning out your freezer, look for things like the pic above, the obvious victims of freezer burn, poor packaging, etc, and single them out for further inspection. If flesh looks substantially different than it usually does when thawed, (Darker, off color, dried out, etc), then you should give it the heave ho; trust me when I say if it looks funky, it’ll taste funky, and could be dangerous.
When you package for freezing, head back to the NCHFP site and read up on best practices.
The time to clear out your freezer is also the time to clean the bugger; this should be done at least annually,
and naturally, the best time do the deed is when sticks are low.
Pull everything out and put it into a fridge or alt freezer, (I KNOW many of y’all have more than one, right?).
Turn off, unplug, and thoroughly defrost your unit.
Once it’s to room temp, clean the insides thoroughly; I like Clorox cleanup for the job, but dish soap and water works fine too. Remove and clean all the shelves, racks, drawers, etc as well.
Do a rinse wipe with a solution of 2 Tablespoons of baking soda to a quart of warm water, then wipe that down with a clean, dry cloth.
Don’t forget the unseen parts! Pull the freezer from it’s normal locale and clean underneath. Inspect the back and clean that as well, (And the top), and dust the coils if your unit has exposed ones.
If you don’t already have one, buy a decent but cheap inside-the-unit thermometer and place in an easy to see spot. Our commercial units have thermometers on them, usually digital, but we don’t trust those; every unit, reach in or walk in, has a stand alone thermometer inside it. Optimal freezer temp for food storage is -15ºF to -5ºF; it should never go above 15ºF for any extended length of time.
Fire ‘er back up, let it get fully cold and then put your bounty back in. mark the calendar for the same time next year.
OK, that about covers it; now go have a celebratory beer or two, ya done good!
Oh, and stay tuned – Next post will cover building the perfect stew with all that lovely meat ya done kilt and gathered!
E & M