Can I eat it? The whole darn freezer edition.
April 3, 2018 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Someone didn't properly close the upright freezer in the garage last night. Found it as I was leaving for work this morning. All sorts of different food-stuffs contained within. What is still safe to eat?

The freezer wasn't closed properly, leaving about a 1 inch gap between the door and the frame. This would have had to happen last night so it's been "defrosting" for between 9-12 hours. It's a large freezer, at least 15 cubic feet. It was about 85% full of many, many things. We immediately rescued some stuff that will be fine, like boxes of butter and some packaged pie crusts. The issue is the large amounts of meats and veggies that are left. The top shelf of the freezer was obviously warmer than the bottom shelf, so it was hard to make a judgement call on just 'toss everything!' since some of the stuff on the lower shelves still felt 'fridge-cold'.

We've got lots of veggies: green beans, corn on the cob, peppers and onions, brussel sprouts, etc. All were washed and vacuum sealed a few weeks ago before being put in the freezer.

There's a ton of chicken breasts in individual portion baggies, whole pork loins, a big block of fajita meat, ground beef and breakfast sausage. Meat items were scattered about the freezer wherever they'd fit, but I can say the chicken breasts were on the second shelf from the top in a big pile. I'd personally just toss the lot, but our housemates are super-frugal and I know it'll be a struggle to make that happen.

Then there is the odd stuff, half a Costco package of cream puffs, an unopened box of Costco Spanikopita, some pureed mango in commercially sealed bags, tubes of go-gurt, quart mason jars filled with homemade chicken stock (not canned, I just use those plastic lids because we freeze them), a sealed bag of buffalo chicken nuggets that was in the basket at the very bottom, etc.

So...what would you all do in this situation? I've never had a food disaster on this scale happen before, so I'd appreciate any and all input.

Bonus: I'm 31 weeks pregnant, so if they DO decide to keep any of the meats, how do I tactfully decline to eat any of those particular items, if the hive-mind decides they aren't OK to eat?
posted by sharp pointy objects to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
I wouldn’t refreeze anything that’s thawed, but I’d move it to the fridge and eat it all without hesitation.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:21 AM on April 3, 2018 [18 favorites]

+1 to snickerdoodle.

You should probably toss everything (not 'cuz it'll kill you, but just 'cuz it's not worth the risk and yucks). If that's not possible, cook up this stuff and have a party.

Re-freezing isn't just overly-frugal, it's going to seriously degrade quality.
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:51 AM on April 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd cook all of the meat thats defrosted but still cold (if its at room temperature, toss it) and then refreeze it. Like, cook the chicken breasts, shred them, divide into portion sizes, and refreeze.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:51 AM on April 3, 2018 [13 favorites]

Sounds like it's time to gather your friends together for a baby shower cook-off (at your place or have them pick up from yours to cook) and have them make all the meals you can reheat and serve in a couple months. Once you've turned them into meals a few people may have to donate a bit of storage space in their own freezers, and then they can bring them over after baby arrives.

In summary for me:
- veggies I would refreeze without hesitation although they might clump, but if you're cooking the meat you might as well use them.
- milk products - cream puffs I would toss if they weren't still frozen because I have been the victim of a bad cream puff experience, go-gurt I would eat or share with friends, chicken stock I think I'd use or toss because it's nice but cheap.
- meat - anything not 100% solid as of when you discovered it I would cook up into yummy post-partum meals and refreze those or, as Elly Vortex said, cooked ingredients for future meals.
- commercial nuggets - cook up right away and eat, or toss.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:03 AM on April 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

The general rule of thumb for if the food in a freezer is still safe when there is no power (or a door left ajar) is 24-48 hours (24 for half-full, 48 for full).

But anyway, there's a site here, and it seems to line up well with my general rule of thumb for such situations:

To determine the safety of foods when the power goes on, check their condition and temperature. If food is partly frozen, still has ice crystals, or is as cold as if it were in a refrigerator (40 °F), it is safe to refreeze or use. It's not necessary to cook raw foods before refreezing. Discard foods that have been warmer than 40 °F for more than 2 hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices. Dispose of soft or melted ice cream for quality's sake.

Personally, I'd toss anything that seemed to suffer as a result of the thawing, and will not re-freeze well, like the cream puffs or the yogurt. If any of those meat packages half-thawed on something, then I'd also toss the bits it leaked on.

Otherwise, you should be OK. Freezers are very forgiving. The quality might suffer, but it's not going to kill you.
posted by PearlRose at 8:59 AM on April 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

This has happened at our house. Twice.

We handled it by prioritizing the most expensive items to the least. Make use of the oven, the bbq, the slow cooker. Borrow an extra if you need to. Make soups. Cook as much as you reasonably can today. You can still reasonably cook items that were still cold enough tomorrow - but I didn't (especially if you're pregnant). In that case give items away to neighbors and friends with the strict caveat that they cook it today. Anything that will freeze well after cooking, like soups or taco meat, go ahead and freeze it again. Then focus on eating those items that won't freeze well after cooking (like the fajitas) for the rest of the week.

Vegetables are low on the totem pole it terms of cost. You could incorporate them into whatever you cook today, but re-freezing raw veg I agree would seriously compromise the quality. I personally wouldn't eat the yogurt. The sealed mango is probably okay to use this week. Anything not still sealed, and the not-canned chicken stock I would probably discard (if you don't use it for soups today).

After the second time it happened at our house (Bonus - I lost a ton of pumped milk too. Whoever said you shouldn't cry over spilt milk had no idea) we added a self-adhesive velcro strip from the edge of the door to side of the wall of the unit. It was an extra reminder to all that the door wasn't closed until the velcro was secured.
posted by vignettist at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

FYI: if you have renter's or homeowner's insurance, it might pay for the lost food. Mine did, after a three-day blackout. As far as I know it didn't cause my rates to climb.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:06 PM on April 3, 2018

It's probably all fine, unless the melting ice sogged up packaging real weird or something. If you left any of that food on the counter overnight, it'd be fine, so don't see how it'd be a problem with it all in the freezer. Open or not, it's surely colder for that duration than the counter anyway.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:25 PM on April 3, 2018

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