Should I eat it: open freezer edition
October 18, 2019 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Freezer was ajar all night. What is safe to keep, what is not? Lots and lots of food in it, ranging from fruit to cooked meat.

Our freezer door was left ever so slightly ajar over night. So, from maybe 8 or 9pm-7am. At 7am, some of the stuff in the front of the freezer was defrosted but still very cold, some stuff was half defrosted, some stuff still seemed frozen. There were a lot of ice puddles all over the freezer - seems like condensation dripped off and refroze? Just checked again at 12pm and some was refrozen and some seems still not quite frozen. Foods include: fruit (blueberries, cherries, strawberries, definitely defrosted); ginger root; strawberry mochi ice cream balls (pretty squashy); cooked chickpeas; jarred tomato puree; tomato paste; butter; frozen chocolate chip cookie dough (includes raw eggs); pizza beans (cooked white beans, kale, tomato sauce, cheese); cooked meat (beef and chicken); various frozen vegetables (corn, peas, spinach, etc.); corn tortillas; bread; Parmesan rinds; cream cheese; who knows what else. It was all definitely still very cold, just defrosted. There's probably some other cooked beans (black, white) back there, maybe some frozen soup? There was an ice try that was about half or more melted but there were ice packs that were still pretty frozen. Stuff in the door definitely suffered more. For example of how cold that was, there was a small amount of ice cream in the door - that was the texture of yogurt, not soup (I threw that away, there's no coming back from that!). We're trying to figure out what to keep, what to cook and eat today, and what to throw away.

What is categorically not safe/should be thrown away?
What is safe but will no longer taste good or will have serious texture issues? Some of it definitely has freezer burn now.
What is safe and will be unaffected?
What is fine to refreeze and eat later, and what should be eaten today/tomorrow?

People eating this food include a small child and a toddler and two healthy adults, but none of us have what I would call an iron stomach. We are risk adverse. Throwing out the food will bother us but will not have an impact on our ability to eat, we can afford to replace it.

I wasn't able to do a deep clean out this morning since we were already all late for school/work, so I just shoved the door closed and figured we'd deal with it tonight. I don't think the stuff all the way in the back was affected, but I don't know for sure.
posted by john_snow to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Anything that was defrosted should be brought to the fridge and used immediately. Anything that was still fully frozen should be fine.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:10 AM on October 18, 2019 [5 favorites]


I will not threadsit, I promise, but just to clarify - DoubleLune, do you mean fully or partly defrosted? We don't know for sure what might have fully vs. partly defrosted, because we had to rush out the door to work so we couldn't check everything.
posted by john_snow at 10:28 AM on October 18, 2019


Here are your answers, courtesy of foodsafety.gov:

"A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed). Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below, however, its quality may suffer."

There is a chart in the attached link which you can use as well.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


On reread, given that you closed the door and it is refrozen, you won't be able to use the 40F test, so you may want to use the chart to ditch everything that is labeled as "discard" for the second column.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Since everything will be refrozen by the time you're actually checking it and you'll have no way of knowing what stayed cool/cold overnight or how cold/cool it stayed overnight, I would proceed as if everything was defrosted and out at room temperature for 10 hours.

Local media here (we just had days of blackouts) had a lot of guidance based on whether there were still ice crystals on the food at the end of the power outage, which, like I said, you won't be able to check. FoodSafety.gov has a chart (scroll down for the freezer section). I would assume all your items are in the "Thawed and held above 40°F for more than 2 hours" category. (And if you don't agree with that categorization, the chart can at least give you some guidance in terms of categories that might be safe/unsafe.)
posted by lazuli at 10:51 AM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Thank you Epanalepsis and Lazuli!
posted by john_snow at 10:55 AM on October 18, 2019


As long as it was at least fridge temp, the food is safe. When meat defrosts and re-freezes, it gets a whole new set of ice crystals and that affects texture. Door ajar means stuff likely stayed quite cold. I just lost power for 36 hours. Some meat partially defrosted, but ice in the bin didn't even start to melt.
posted by theora55 at 6:18 PM on October 18, 2019


I would proceed as if everything was defrosted and out at room temperature for 10 hours.

I guess that's the safest course, but it seems overcautious to me, especially given your description of the scene in the morning ("all definitely still very cold, just defrosted"). When the 10 hours started, everything was still 0° and surrounded by other 0° items. It would have taken several hours for the first items to reach 32°, let alone temperatures favorable to bacterial growth.

I'd probably eat everything, but do so over the next few days rather than refreezing for the long haul (though I'm pretty sure you could refreeze the tortillas, bread, and probably butter without concern).
posted by aws17576 at 9:52 PM on October 20, 2019


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