Can you freeze canned food after opening? (+3 storage tips)
In this brief guide, we will address the question, “Can you freeze canned food after opening?”. We will also discuss the benefits and drawbacks of freezing canned food after opening, how you can properly store it and how you can tell if canned food is bad.
Can you freeze canned food after opening?
Yes, you can freeze canned food after opening. However, it is usually not recommended to do so. Canned food is typically designed and processed for long-term storage at room temperature, involving specific heat and pressure treatments to ensure safety and prevent spoilage. Once a can is opened, the contents become exposed to air and contaminants, increasing the potential for bacterial growth and chemical reactions (1).
The USDA says canned food can be frozen after opening, however, it may change the quality of the food upon thawing, especially food that does not freeze well. For example, foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, may become mushy or lose their crispness after freezing. Additionally, sauces and gravies may separate, resulting in a change in consistency (1,2).
While frozen canned food is still safe to eat, it is recommended to consume it as soon as possible after thawing to maintain the best quality. It is also advisable to consider the specific characteristics of the food before deciding to freeze it after opening (1,2).
What are the benefits of freezing food after opening?
- When you freeze canned food after opening it, the shelf life of perishable foods is increased because it slows down the microbial growth that leads to food degradation (3).
- Freezing also helps reduce the amount of enzyme activity and nutrient degradation that take place at room temperature and maintain the food’s nutritious value (3).
- By limiting the production of ice crystals that might harm cells, freezing can also maintain the flavor and texture of some meals (3).
- Because leftovers can be securely frozen for later use, it enables portion management (3).
What are the drawbacks of freezing food after opening?
- While freezing can offer benefits, you may notice some drawbacks like a loss of firmness or mushiness, especially for foods with a high water content because ice crystals can break cell structures (3)
- Freezing can also change a food’s flavor because cold temperatures might impact how it tastes (3).
- While freezing, moisture may be released during the freezing and subsequent thawing processes, which could have a negative effect on the food’s flavor and consistency (3).
- In addition, not all meals can be frozen after being opened because some components or compositions may not be able to endure freezing without experiencing unfavorable quality changes (2).
How can you properly freeze open canned food?
To properly freeze canned food after opening, first, it is best to transfer the contents into a separate, airtight container and discard the brine mixture. Storing canned food in the can can lead to metal corrosion, affecting both the food’s shelf life and potential health risks if consumed from corroded containers (1,4,5).
Freezing canned food can cause the liquid inside to expand, potentially resulting in can rupture and jeopardizing the safety and quality of the food. That’s why it is recommended to transfer opened canned food into suitable, airtight containers to prevent these issues (4,5).
After transferring to a new container, keep the food at -18 °C or lower for at least three months. To defrost the frozen food, you can do it in the refrigerator, allowing it to thaw overnight. By doing this, you minimize the chance of microbial growth (3,6).
How long does canned food last after being opened?
Once opened, canned food generally has a shelf life of 5–7 days before it starts to spoil. Acidic foods tend to have a longer shelf life compared to items like meat and poultry, which typically last about 3–5 days after opening (1).
However, it’s worth noting that fruits can be preserved for up to six months if properly wrapped and stored in sealed containers at room temperature. Freezing canned apples is an effective method for extending their freshness. By taking these steps, you can ensure that opened canned food remains safe and edible for an extended period (1,7).
How to tell if canned food is bad?
To determine if canned food is bad, look for signs of spoilage such as unpleasant odors, tastes, and textures. Additionally, check the condition of the can itself before purchasing or consuming it to avoid any potential contamination (1).
Signs of spoiled canned food include holes or rust on the inner side of the can, indicating compromised quality and potential health risks. Visible mold or bacterial growth, apart from the food product, suggests punctures or prolonged exposure (1).
Inflated or shrunken cans indicate damage during handling, affecting the shelf life of the food. Improper sealing, seen at the lid of the can, may lead to spoilage before the indicated “best by” date (1,8).
Lastly, swollen cans, caused by gas produced by bacteria like Clostridium (which can cause botulism in anaerobic conditions) should be discarded immediately to avoid any health concerns (1,8).
In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “Can you freeze canned food after opening?”. We also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of freezing canned food after opening, how you can properly store it and how you can tell if canned food is bad.
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USDA. Shelf-Stable Food Safety. 2015.
USDA. What foods can you freeze? 2023.
USDA. Freezing and Food Safety. 2013
Montanari A, Zurlini C. Influence of side stripe on the corrosion of unlacquered tinplate cans for food preserves. Packag Technol Sci. 2018, 31(1), 15–25.
Deshwal GK, Panjagari NR. Review on metal packaging: materials, forms, food applications, safety and recyclability. J Food Sci Technol. 2020, 57(7), 2377-2392.
USDA. The Big Thaw – Safe Defrosting Methods. 2013
USDA. How long can you keep canned goods? 2023.