What happens if meat gets freezer burn? (How to avoid it)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question “What happens if meat gets freezer burn?”, discuss whether freezer burned meat is safe for consumption and how to cook with freezer burned meat.

What happens if meat gets freezer burn?

When meat gets a freezer burn, it turns grayish or brownish. It gets dry and looks very tough. The texture of the meat may also become grainy and rough and the taste also gets altered.

Freezer burn happens when the water is lost, leaving behind dehydrated meat. The altered taste and color is because when meat is dehydrated, oxygen gets a chance to come in and oxidize it.

Meat has a risk of getting a freezer burn if it stays in the freezer for too long and is not properly vacuum sealed.

Is freezer burned meat safe to consume?

Yes, freezer burned meat is safe to consume as long as it was frozen properly and thawed correctly before consuming. 

It will have a rough texture and the flavor will also not be the same but it is safe to eat. You can also try to cut off the part that has been freezer burned and use the rest of it for consumption.

How to cook with freezer burned meat?

Well, since freezer burned meat is safe for consumption, you can use it in cooking and follow the following tips to make it taste better.

  1. Thaw it slowly in the refrigerator. You can also place it in an ice bath. Do not use warm water or microwave to defrost the freezer burned meat because that may promote bacterial growth. Let it thaw slowly.
  2. Use brine to try and introduce moisture in the meat again.
  3. Use cooking methods that allow for gentle cooking slowly over time so that no further moisture is lost and the meat gets enough time to get tender.
  4. Use this meat for making dishes such as Thai curries since Thai curries have a very potent flavor which might mask some of the off taste of freezer burned meat.
  5. You can also use this meat for barbecue.

Is it safe to eat meat frozen for 3 years?

Yes, it is safe to eat meat frozen for 3 years  given that it was raw, uncooked and stored properly . For meat to still be good after 3 years, it should be frozen at 0 degree without any changes in the temperature. 

Meat stored at 0 degree will be fresh for as long as you want it to be. Any disruptions in the temperature can cause the meat to go bad. This is because 0 degree prevents the microorganisms from multiplying. It arrests their growth, does not necessarily kill them. As soon as the temperature fluctuates, the bacteria gets time to grow.

This is also true for when you take out the meat, thaw or defrost it, use some of it and refreeze the remaining meat. This should not be done. If you wish to store meat for 3 years, it should be kept frozen without ever taking it out. 

If you want to use some of it, you can store meat in smaller portions so that you only have to take out one portion and cook it without the need for refreezing the remaining portion.

Special attention should be given to the freezer’s temperature. Any hot dish should not be placed inside the freezer as it will make the temperature inside the freezer rise and subsequently cause the meat to spoil. 

Cooked meat however will not last as long even if frozen. It will only stay safe for consumption for upto a few months.

What is the proper way to freeze meat?

Well, the best way to store meat in the freezer is to put it inside an airtight bag or a vacuum sealed bag. It is important to keep in mind that the kind of bag you are using should be freezer safe such as a heavy duty freezer bag. This is because you want to protect the meat against freezer burn.

When storing for longer periods of time, it is also advisable that you store individual servings of meat in multiple bags so you only take out the amount needed at one time. You do not have to remove and thaw all of the meat at once and have to store the leftovers again.

This is efficient, easy and also minimizes the risk of contamination because as soon as the temperature rises, bacteria gets a chance to multiply. You would not want to freeze the contaminated meat again.

Learn more about freezer burn here.

Other FAQs about Meat that you may be interested in.

Can you cook a frozen roast in the oven? (3 Types of Roast)

Are cured meats safe to eat?

How long does cooked meat last in the fridge?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “What happens if meat gets freezer burn?”, discussed whether freezer burned meat is safe for consumption and how to cook with freezer burned meat.



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FEINER, Gerhard. Meat products handbook: Practical science and technology. Elsevier, 2006.


SCHMIDT, Shelly J.; LEE, Joo Won. How does the freezer burn our food?. Journal of Food Science Education, v. 8, n. 2, p. 45-52, 2009.


Nethra, Perichitala Vasudev, et al. Critical factors affecting the shelf life of packaged fresh red meat–A Review. Measurement: Food: 100086. 2023.


Leygonie, C., Britz, T. J., & Hoffman, L. C. Impact of freezing and thawing on the quality of meat: Review. Meat Science, 91(2), 93–98. 2012.