Can Frozen Foods Be Stored Indefinitely?

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Yes, foods can last for years if they are frozen properly. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, frozen foods constantly stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit can be kept indefinitely.

Yes, foods can last for years if they are frozen properly. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, frozen foods constantly stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit can be kept indefinitely.

I’m not a great cook. In fact, I can barely manage to cook a single meal for myself. As such, I often find myself wondering if I could get myself a week’s worth food in advance and store it in the fridge. That way, I wouldn’t have to bother cooking for myself and ruining perfectly good food.

If I could get the food in my freezer to last indefinitely that would be great meme

But is it actually possible? Can foods be stored indefinitely if you store them in a freezer?

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Can Foods Last Forever, If Stored Properly?

Yes, foods can last for years if they are frozen properly. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, frozen foods constantly stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit can be kept indefinitely.

In fact, there is a neat little list of food items and their ‘storage times’ compiled by the FDA. You can check it out here.

Now, of course, such a bold claim, i.e. ‘frozen food can last forever’, comes with several terms and conditions.

Absolute Cooling

Firstly, in the sentence “frozen foods should be stored properly”, it’s important to understand and appreciate the meaning of the word ‘properly’. If you are looking to store a turkey for years on end, you must make sure that the freezing environment that you’re going to put it in is absolute. In other words, it should be constantly stored in a freezing environment; if there is a lapse in maintaining the desired temperature, the turkey would spoil and your efforts in storing it would all be futile.

You better keep our freezer on at all times meme

Packaging And Speed Of Freezing

The efficiency of storing a frozen food also depends on how it’s packed and the speed with which it’s frozen. For instance, a food that’s ‘loosely’ packed in a freezer bag is more likely to spoil than food that’s packed in an airtight glass container, as the amount of evaporation is less in the latter case. Thus, it’s more likely to last longer when frozen.

Plus, foods that are flash frozen are more likely to last longer when stored. For the uninitiated, flash freezing is the process of freezing objects incredibly fast by subjecting them to extremely low temperatures. You see, when you flash freeze a food item, say berries, you essentially prevent the formation of ice crystals on their surface. This is good news because ice crystals can pierce the cell walls of those berries, and make them taste…. funny. In other words, not good.

Flash freezing Raspberries
Flash freezing involves using ultra-low temperatures to freeze food insanely fast. This technique has applications in some other fields as well. (Photo Credit : / Wikimedia Commons)

Note that if you have a frost-free freezer, you might want to rethink the idea of stashing food in there for years because such a freezer follows a cycle of freeze-thaw constantly. This increases the chances of frost damage in the food item. You need absolute cooling for storing foods indefinitely.

Freezing Doesn’t Stop Oxidation

While freezing certainly ensures that the food doesn’t become harmful to consume, it cannot prevent chemical reactions, like oxidation, to occur. Oxidation, when coupled with dehydration (brought upon the food by the freezer itself), can potentially cause freezer burn.

A freezer burn occurs when frozen food is damaged by the combined effect of oxidation (as a result of air reaching the food) and dehydration. Foods that are not packed in airtight packaging are quite prone to this condition.

Freezer Burned Steak Frozen
Freezer Burned Steak Frozen. (Photo Credit : Steven Depolo / Flickr)

Also Read: What Causes Canned Food To Spoil Eventually?

The Same Taste Is Not Guaranteed!

If you plan to purchase a year’s worth of groceries and stash them in your freezer (to beat inflation, of course!), there is a crucial thing that you need to consider. You can freeze certain food items for a long time, and consume them after years, and still they won’t be dangerous to your health. However, their taste and texture might not be the same as that of their ‘fresher counterparts’.

Several chemical reactions continue to occur even when food is frozen. In some cases, even the ingredients of the food might begin disintegrating and become slightly different forms of themselves after a long time. The upshot? You could still eat those food items and not get an upset stomach, but you won’t enjoy it.

Also Read: Why Does Food In The Fridge Stay Fresh For Longer?

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References (click to expand)
  1. Cold Food Storage Chart |
  2. Refrigerator and Freezer Storage - UNL Food. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  3. Freezing and Food Safety. The Food Safety and Inspection Service
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About the Author

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spearheads the content and editorial wing of ScienceABC and manages its official Youtube channel. He’s a Harry Potter fan and tries, in vain, to use spells and charms (Accio! [insert object name]) in real life to get things done. He totally gets why JRR Tolkien would create, from scratch, a language spoken by elves, and tries to bring the same passion in everything he does. A big admirer of Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla, he obsesses over how thoroughly science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.