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Frozen Food Storage: Keeping It Safe and Tasty

Is it time to clean out your freezer?

How Long Can You Keep Frozen Foods?

And how long can you keep something frozen before it gets too icky to use? Check the use-by date for foods that were purchased frozen. For other commonly frozen foods, here is the FDA's recommended timetable for optimum quality:

  • Bacon and sausage: 1-2 months
  • Casseroles: 2-3 months
  • Soups and stews: 2 months
  • Frozen dinners and entrees: 3-4 months
  • Uncooked roasts: 4-12 months
  • Uncooked ground meat: 3-4 months
  • Uncooked whole poultry: 12 months
  • Uncooked poultry parts: 9 months
  • Cooked poultry: 4 months

For any food not listed, defrost it and check its quality. First, smell it. Anything that smells "off" should be thrown out, says the FDA. If it doesn't look as good as it used to but seems otherwise OK, you can try using it in soups or stews. (If it's got freezer burn, just cut off the "burned" spots.) For raw foods, cook them, and if you like the taste and texture, use them.

More Freezer Facts

Here are some other facts you may not know about freezing foods:

  • Freezing to 0 degrees Fahrenheit inactivates microbes (like bacteria and molds) but it doesn't destroy them. When a food is thawed, the microbes may become active again and multiply, in certain conditions.
  • You've noticed that water expands when frozen, right? Well, the high water content in fruits and vegetables causes their cell walls to break, due to the expanding frozen water within. This is why thawed foods sometimes have a mushy texture.
  • When your electricity goes off, you should keep your freezer door closed. A fully loaded freezer should keep food frozen for one to two days if the door isn't opened.
  • Most frozen vegetables can be cooked straight from the freezer, with the exception of corn on the cob, which should be partially defrosted first.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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