Is food with freezer burn safe to eat?

Leave something in the freezer long enough, and when you pull it out you're likely to find that it looks like something from the Ice Age. Still, there's no reason to toss that half-eaten pint of Ben & Jerry's in the trash because of a little freezer burn (though if you store if correctly, you won't have to worry about that), right?

Writing for Scientific American, licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel says that eating freezer-burned food is perfectly safe, as long as there haven't been any power outages and the food has been handled properly prior to freezing. But before you go throwing that freezer-burned steak on the grill, hold up, there's some bad news here, too. You may notice red meat that has some freezer burn has turned brown, and it may even look cooked. Veggies that have been exposed to freezer burn may have a duller color. It's not just food's color that's affected by freezer burn, though, the quality and taste also takes a hit. Food that has freezer burn is probably going to taste a bit dry and simply not as flavorful as it should. It is recommended that you cut away the freezer-burned areas of foods, if possible, for a more enjoyable finished product (via United States Department of Agriculture).

Now that we know eating freezer-burned food is safe, what's behind this flavor-destroying frost? Freezing is a fantastic way of preserving your favorite casserole, but the water molecules in food aren't too keen on being locked away in the depths of the freezer. As the water molecules become ice crystals, they migrate out of the food to the coldest part of the freezer. Typically, this happens be the walls of the freezer. Your freezer is basically sucking the moisture out of your food, and the freezer burn is those frozen water molecules exiting your food, which you can imagine does not do it any favors in the long run (via Library of Congress). 

Food that has been improperly stored becomes freezer burned faster — air is the enemy here. Maybe it was late and you neglected to properly seal the plastic zip bag, we get it. Just don't be surprised if those burgers look like icy hockey pucks in the morning. Temperature and time will also impact the amount of freezer burn on food. Freezing will keep food fresh for only so long, and fluctuating freezer temperatures above 0 degrees Fahrenheit can also cause freezer burn.

Long story short, eating foods with freezer burn is safe — it's only your taste buds that will be taking the hit.