Emergency Preparedness For Your Freezer
I don’t have a traumatic, gripping, or even interesting story to tell you regarding my recent freezer debacle. It happened just recently, when my curious 9-year-old filled a balloon with water and placed it inside my deep freeze door to see if it would expand (as detailed in her science lessons.) Her science project was successful, the balloon grew to twice its size, and my freezer door popped open and sat unattended for almost 30 hours. When I found it, most of my meat had thawed considerably, and some funky fruit had made its way to my garage floor.
I wasn’t prepared for how to handle this. What meat could I keep? Would I have to cook it all before refreezing? I thank my lucky stars that I stumbled upon a freezer disaster guide from the Michigan State University Extension. I’ve highlighted the best parts for you below:
Plan for the worst. If you know you’ll lose power to your freezer ahead of time, don’t just sit there! Keep the door closed and cover the entire freezer with blankets (keeping the air vent unobstructed.) If it happens to be more than a day or two without electricity, go ahead and add dry ice to your freezer. The University recommends 25 pounds per 10 cubic feet of freezer space. (Be sure the area your freezer is stored in will be well-ventilated, as the ice will melt to form Carbon Dioxide gas.)
Increase your odds. Certain factors will help to keep your food frozen longer in an emergency. A freezer will stay coldest when it is:
- Filled mostly with meats (as opposed to fruits and breads)
- Running at a colder temperature
- Better insulated
Know how to handle thawed foods. Even with the best preparation, things may thaw out. It is best to toss anything that looks thawed and is at room temperature, smells funny, had a significant color change, and has any apparent mold or bacteria growth. It is generally OK to refreeze food that is safe to eat (although the quality may be affected.) For the best possible quality, follow the guidelines for each type of frozen food, which include:
Meat (whole cuts of red meat, pork, and cured meats) – Refreeze only those packages that are cool to the touch or contain some ice crystals. Ground meat must be handled more carefully, and shouldn’t be refrozen if it has completely thawed. (Use it right away, or cook and refreeze.)
Poultry – Only refreeze poultry that it still partially frozen. Completely thawed poultry should be cooked immediately and can then be refrozen if desired. (Be sure to keep poultry drippings away from other foods, and repackage it, if needed.)
Fish – Only refreeze fish that is solidly frozen. Partially thawed or completely thawed fish should only be used it if is still very cold. Cook it and use it immediately!
Fruit – Refreeze anything that still looks good or consider using it in a nice pie or homemade jam.
Vegetables – If there are still ice crystals, it can be refrozen. If not, it must be cooked and used right away or refrozen.
Baked goods – If your frozen bread or hard rolls have thawed, do not refreeze them. Store them in the fridge and bake them within a day or two.
Miscellaneous – Do not refreeze ice cream, thawed cheese, thawed juices, or prepared foods (TV dinners). Use them up right away and discard anything you can’t.
This handy list helped me to avoid panic and let me safely use only those foods I needed to. I also learned a lot about what to do the next time this happens. (Although I may consider adding a safety device to my freezer like I did with my refrigerator .) All in all, I only had to use up a few tortellini’s and a bag of peas. Not bad!