Maybe it’s the voice of my coupon-clipping mom in my head, but I love a grocery deal.
"Oh, these chicken breasts? On sale for $2 per pound," I say, reveling in the impressed nods as my friends take another bite of herb-and-feta-stuffed chicken.
The best way to score such deals, of course, is to buy chicken in bulk packages. Then, I freeze what I’m not immediately using. Raw poultry keeps in the refrigerator for only two days, and leftover cooked poultry for only three days. So the freezer is where I store the majority of a value-pack of chicken until I’m ready to cook with it. But this raises the icy specter of freezer burn.
Freezer burn occurs when thousands of water molecules within a piece of meat—or ice cream, or vegetable—form small ice crystals. According to the Science Reference Section of the Library of Congress, these crystals seek out the most hospitable (read: coldest) part of their environment, which is usually the side of a piece of food nearest to the freezer wall. As these ice crystals migrate out of the food, they draw moisture with them. The result is a piece of food that’s dry and unappetizing—but still safe to eat.
"Freezer burn is not a safety issue, just a quality one," says Paul Adams, ATK’s senior science research editor. "Moisture leaves the surface of the food, drying out the surface and often leaving it with weird off-flavors and texture."