Here's the Best Way to Store Food in the Freezer

You can do better with your frozen food storage.

Being able to freeze food is one of those everyday activities that we take for granted. Practicing proper food preservation isn't only important to our wallets, it affects the overall impact we make on the (massive) food waste issue in America. Plus, it's key to avoiding foodborne illness and bacterial issues that can be easily caused by improper storage.

When we talk about the best way to store food in the freezer, remember that it's not always foolproof. Each freezer is different, and things like broken seals and deferred maintenance can spoil food despite your best efforts. That said, here are several ways you can organize your freezer to keep you and your family stay safe (and make sure your ice cream is still kickin' come springtime).

01 of 07

Fill It With Enough Food

Believe it or not, a full freezer retains cold temperatures much better—and more efficiently—than an empty one. When filled, the frozen food will help to maintain the ice-cold temperature inside the cavity, so the freezer itself won't have to work as hard to keep the temp sufficiently low. Just don't overdo it and pack the freezer too tight, because you need to maintain airflow inside.

02 of 07

Set the Ideal Temperature

The ideal freezer temperature is 0 F, so go ahead and set your freezer as close to this temp as possible. This is best for long-term storage—and food safety. However, when adding a lot of new room-temperature food, lower the temp a few degrees for at least 24 hours. Many freezers have a flash freeze option for this purpose. If you're getting sore biceps from scooping rock-hard ice cream, keep it in the freezer door, where the temp will be a bit warmer.

03 of 07

Defrost Frozen Food in the Fridge

Ever scrambled to decide what's for dinner and haphazardly left a package of frozen chicken breasts on the countertop to defrost before leaving for work? This is a very common mix-up—and a nightmare when it comes to food safety.

Thawing poultry, fish, or red meat on the countertop leaves your meat in the temperature danger zone—40 F to 140 F—too long, meaning bacteria may form before the meat is fully defrosted. Defrost (slowly) in the fridge or (quickly) in the microwave instead.

04 of 07

Organize Food So It Doesn't Get Lost

Most freezers don't come with the useful shelves, drawers, and bins that our fridges have. Why does this matter? Fast forward to yourself two years from now, pulling out a plastic baggie with a single deteriorated hot dog or UCO (unidentified cheese object), wondering why you thought it would be OK to just "throw it in the freezer." A plastic bin or freezer organizer will help keep your odds and ends organized.

05 of 07

Flash Freeze Foods First

Rather than dumping all your blueberries, banana slices, or burgers into Ziploc baggies and throwing them in the freezer, freeze them in a single layer on a sheet tray first. Allow them to fully harden (24 hours should do it), then transfer everything to a single baggie or storage container. When you can pick out a single strawberry without grabbing an entire weird freezer-burnt blob of them, you'll understand why.

06 of 07

Don't Open the Freezer During an Outage

If you experience a power outage, resist the temptation to open your freezer to survey what's inside. This will help preserve your food for as long as possible. When the power comes back, check to see what's still fully frozen and toss everything that feels soft or even slightly thawed—we promise, evading food poisoning is well worth it.

07 of 07

Toss Out Old, Expired Food

Even frozen foods have an expiration date, especially in the taste and texture department. Familiarize yourself with some common freezer food expiration dates to see exactly how long you can store every ingredient in your icebox.

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