Freezer Storage Times Depend on Multiple Factors
Freezer storage times depend on a few key factors.
Freezing does not improve food. It can’t turn back the clock on overripe, over cooked or spoiled food.
It does, however, put bacteria into a state of hibernation while frozen, bacteria will continue to multiple while food is freezing and while food thaws.
So you start with a good product and freeze it, but how long will last? For a quick answer read my three rules of thumb for freezer storage times.
If you want to know what factors determine how long something will keep in the freezer read on.
Type of Food
Salt is usually a preservative of food, but in the freezer salt causes fats to go rancid faster. This means that the freezer storage life of salty foods like ham, bacon, sausages and deli or lunch meats is short. The USDA only recommend one month for these items. Tons of people have frozen them longer without problems and it's often debated how long these can freeze for. If you do freeze them for more than a month I recommend using the inspection rule. If you think it’s bad throw it out.
Enzymes cause veggies to continue ripening or over-ripening. This chemical reaction can continue in the freezer. To stop it the veggies must be cooked enough to break down the enzymes thus most veggies are blanched or cooked before being frozen. If they are only frozen for short lengthens of time they do not have to be blanched first because there isn't enough time for the enzymes to destroy their quality. This process varies from vegetable to vegetable. Learn more about how to freeze vegetables and frozen vegetables.
Organs, those things most Westerners won’t eat such as livers, hearts, giblets and tongue, don’t last long in the freezer either. Try to use these within 3-6 months.
How It’s Packaged
Quality freezer containers are an investment to protect the time and money you've spent on your freezer cooking.
Your freezer should stay at 0 F (-18 C) constantly. Before adding large batches of food you can lower the temperature to -10 F (-23 C). For every 5 F degrees above zero your expected freezer storage time is cut in half.
Number of Power Outs And Duration
I’ve been there dealt with frequent power outs (five power outs the first month I lived in Maidstone Saskatchewan, some up to 3 hours long) and it might seem counterintuitive, but the best thing to do is keep the freezer full and keep foods stacked close together.
A full freezer takes longer to thaw. If you don’t have enough food freeze water in bags or pans and fill your freezer with items from the pantry like flour that can store in the freezer instead.
Be sure to properly organize your freezer (raw meat on the bottom, meals above that, fruit and veggies above that and baked good on the top) and prepare your freezer for power outs with my handy dandy ice cube tip.
Amount of Surface Area
Learn more about preventing freezer burn.
Spices and Flavorings
Strong smelling foods like raw onions or curry sauce should be double or triple wrapped so other foods don't absorb their scent.
Got questions? Ask me your freezer cooking questions and get answers.