Friday, October 23, 2020

Don’t Open Your Freezer in Power Outage

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Sooner or later there will be a problem. It might be a winter ice storm or summer wind and rain. There are also questions about food safety when the freezer fails or is accidentally unplugged.

If at all possible, wait until power is on before opening the freezer door. Each door opening increases the interior temperature and decreases the time foods will hold safely without power.

In most cases, a full or nearly full chest-type freezer, in an appropriate location, will hold well for 24 hours and longer. DO NOT OPEN door during power outage. If less than 24 hours, do not open door when power resumes. LET THINGS REFREEZE at least 24 hours before opening the door.

When time is longer or conditions are different, you will need to survey the situation and make decisions.

Conditions can decrease the time the freezer will hold safely. These include:

  • Any door opening during the power outage. This is especially true for an upright model.
  • High room temperatures (above 85 to 100°F).
  • Initial freezer temperature above 0°F.
  • Partially full freezer.

Freezer Location

The ideal location for a separate freezer is a cool, dry room. Keep at least 2 inches clearance to each side and several feet above. The garage is not recommended; it is too hot in the summer and too cold in Ohio winters.

Be Prepared

In case of an outage or equipment failure it is helpful to know the temperature of the thawed food. Two tips will let you be prepared.

  • 1. Place two or three ice cubes in a plastic freezer bag and seal. Keep this in the freezer at all times. In an upright freezer, you can have a test bag on each shelf. If there is a power outage you will know if the interior temperature was above 32°F if the cubes melt. If the cubes are melted, quickly determine the temperature of the water in the bag and you will know the temperature inside the freezer.
  • 2. Have a thermometer on hand that will permit you to determine the temperature of the food or the test packet mentioned above.
  • 3. Keep a thermometer in the freezer. (Place in a location that you can read quickly, before temperature reading changes.)

Alternatives

  • 1. If there is a commercial freezer/locker in the area, check on available storage space and costs.
  • 2. During winter months, temperatures outdoors may allow temporary storage of perishable foods (if temperatures are below freezing all day). Take precautions to prevent contamination and keep out of reach of animals.

Guidelines for safely refreezing thawed foods are outlined on the chart on the page. (below)

Guidelines for Safely Refreezing Thawed Food

As a general rule completely thawed foods should not be refrozen. The quality will always be poorer and spoilage may have taken place during the thawing and standing periods. Unfortunately, there is no home method to test whether a food is safe after thawing. Refreezing is always to some extent a calculated risk.

Most foods above 40°F for more than 2 hours are at risk for food poisoning and should be discarded.

Exceptions would be those foods that are safe at room temperature, such as nuts, coffee and plain breads.

WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.
FROZEN FOOD PARTIALLY THAWED
(Still cold, under 40°F)
COMPLETELY THAWED
(warm, above 40°F
less than 2 hours)
Fruits Yes Probably safe, but
may have fermented.
Fruit Juice Concentrates Yes, but flavor may be poor.
Juice may separate.
Yes. May have started to fermented.
Vegetables Yes, may wish to cook and use
in vegetable mixtures before
refreezing.
Cook. Eat or cool and refreeze.
Meats and Poultry (uncooked) Yes, if odor is normal. May
wish to cook and refreeze.
No, if there is an off odor.
Cook. Eat or cool and refreeze.
Variety Meats (liver, heart, kidney)No. If odor is normal, cook
and use as soon as possible.
No.
Fish and Shellfish (uncooked) No. If odor is normal, cook
and use as soon as possible.
No.
Cooked Meat, Poultry, Fish Do NOT refreeze. May be
thawed in refrigerator. Use
within 1-2 days.
Do NOT refreeze.
Refrigerater promptly.
Use within 1-2 days.
Combination Dishes (pot pies,
casseroles, whole meals)
No. No.
Soups Reheat thoroughly (165°F),
cool. Refreeze.
No.
Ice Cream and Sherbet Safe, but quality is poor. No.
Fruit Pies Yes. Bake and eat.
Bread Yes. Yes, but texture poor.
Plain cake and cookies Yes. Yes, but texture poor.
Cream filled cake or cookies No. No.

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