Does Re-wrapping in Freezer Bags Change a Best-by date?

Question:

If I put my chicken in freezer bags, does that change the best-by date? Do freezer bags alter shelf life? Is it better to use freezer bags or leave meats in store wrapping? How to use freezer bags?

Answer:

Freezer bags, if used properly as detailed below, can stretch the frozen shelf life and safety of your product beyond what it would have been if left in the grocery store wrapping. This is especially true of meats, poultry and seafood which are generally wrapped in a very thin plastic wrap in grocery stores. This wrapping is so thin that a sharp edge of a bone, fingernail or freezer shelf can easily tear the plastic wrap. Once there is a hole, no matter how small, freezer burn will happen rapidly in that spot and spread from there.

How To Use Freezer Bags

Food Waste

There are two things you want to do when storing food in the freezer, keep it oxygen fee and keep the moisture inside of your food. Freezer bags, again when used correctly, can become a container that is as void of air as possible without the use of a vacuum sealer. Freezer bags are thicker and more protective therefore providing low water vapor permeability, meaning that moisture in the meat will be held there. The moisture will remain in your meat as it cannot easily escape through the plastic.

So, proper food storage has to do with oxygen content in the container (you do not want any in the bag to allow oxidation damage to the meat) and moisture containment within the container to prevent osmosis [1].

Packaging that is not freezer safe causes red meat color to begin turning grey or even green and causes oxidation and rancidity of fats resulting in an undesirable off-putting flavor. Fresh meats have a relatively high moisture content and can suffer considerable quality and weight losses due to evaporation and drying during freezer storage if not wrapped in proper water-vapour-proof materials.

How To Use Freezer Bags

Freezer bags are for use with cooled foods, placed inside without touching the opening. For liquids, this means using a funnel to keep the sealing strip clean so that it will seal properly.

  1. Purchase bags with “Freezer” specified in the label like these Ziploc Freezer Bags.
  2. Place your food into the bag. For sauces or liquids, use a funnel so as not to contaminate the sealing strip. You want the sealing strip clean in order to seal properly. Be sure your food has cooled if it was hot, but never left out on the counter for any longer than two hours.
  3. Seal – when ready to seal, be sure to place your food at the bottom of the bag and then flatten the bag upward, forcing any (or as much as possible) excess air out of the bag. Press the sealing strip to all but the last inch and then force the rest of the air out before completing the zip.
  4. Lay bags flat into the freezer, stacking them when possible. If you have multiple bags to freeze at once, spread them throughout the freezer at first so that they will freeze quickly and then stack them once frozen.

What Else You Can Do

To go even further than freezer bags, consider vacuum sealed bags. This vacuum sealing system, FoodSaver V3835 Vacuum Food Sealer with SmartSeal Technology, eliminates air from touching your product. Without air, your product shelf life is extended even further. Another added benefit is that these bags are so tough that they can be boiled in a pot of water, making freezer to table a breeze on a busy night.

To find out how long chicken lasts, visit our chicken page.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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