A heaping sweet scoop — or two — of your favorite ice cream is the perfect treat on a hot summer day. But what happens when you reach for that pint and the creamy goodness inside is covered with ice crystals? Unfortunately, your beloved dessert has fallen victim to freezer burn.
Freezer burn occurs as ice begins to evaporate over time in the freezer. As moisture leaves the ice cream and mixes with the air, it refreezes on the surface, creating those unappetizing crunchy crystals on top, according to Ben & Jerry’s.
While freezer burnt ice cream isn’t unsafe to eat, it’s not exactly appetizing, either. “Freezer burn does not make food unsafe … Heavily freezer-burned foods may have to be discarded for quality reasons,” the USDA states.
While all types ice cream can become freezer burned, there are certain flavors more likely to develop that undesired crunchy coating than others.
Frederick Aquino, pastry chef at The Standard, High Line in New York City, told The Takeout that “ice creams with a lot of overrun — the amount of air pushed into the ice cream as it’s being made — are most at risk.” Ice creams won't be labeled as "overrun" but there are a few easy ways to tell if your ice cream has more in it. If a pint feels heavy, it's probably a premium product. But some people actually prefer an airier texture, so it's not necessarily a bad thing — just know that it might be more likely to develop freezer burn.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams founder Jeni Britton Bauer added that flavors containing more sugar and alcohol can be troublesome, along with those lower in fat.
Luckily ,there are a few expert tips and tricks (besides eating the whole pint in one sitting) to help prevent freezer burn.
1. Avoid melting and freezing it over and over
Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Guru Eric Fredette told TODAY Food that every time ice cream warms up and refreezes, the individual ice crystals get bigger, taking away from the ideal creamy texture. “If you have a long drive from the supermarket to your home, put the ice cream in a freezer bag,” Fredette recommended. And, unless you're hosting an ice cream party, it's best to put any ice cream container right back into the freezer after you've served yourself to keep too much of it from melting.
2. Keep it as cold as possible
The ideal temperature for ice cream is between zero and 5 degrees below zero, according to Fredette. Both Aquino and Britton Bauer agree temperature is key, though Britton Bauer suggested 20 to 25 degrees below zero is ideal. “That is the temperature at which water in ice cream freezes. But if you treat the ice cream right and store it properly, it should be fine for at least a week,” she said.
3. Stash it in the back
Britton Bauer also recommends storing ice cream at the back of the freezer where temperatures are coldest, and not on the swinging door. Ben & Jerry’s suggests the same. “This makes it harder for warm air to invade your ice cream every time you open the door,” they say.
4. Seal it up
It’s also possible to slow down the freezer burn process with plastic wrap, parchment or wax paper.
“Try to flatten the ice cream before putting on the plastic [or] paper, so it will sit flat on top of the ice cream,” Aquino told The Takeout. “If you have a vacuum sealer, use it for this purpose.” Fredette agreed, telling The Kitchn the added layer will help prevent some of the ice crystals from forming on opened ice cream and keep the air from drying it out.
5. Store it upside down
While this tip has the potential to get a little messy, it can help prolong the life of the ice cream. “Flip your partially melted pint upside down before refreezing. This causes the melted ice cream to drip onto the lid where it has less chance of ruining the still-cold portion,” Ben & Jerry’s states. Just make sure the lid is on tight.
If your ice cream is already freezer burnt, feat not, it’s still salvageable. Britton Bauer said you can always dig down into the carton below the surface and find “a core that looks unchanged.”
If you’re really desperate, it is possible to put any ice cream bits into a food processor then refreeze it to get the texture back, but the flavor might not be the same since you're whipping air and additional ice into the mix. If all else fails, Britton Bauer recommends turning it into a sundae “with a very dark hot fudge, a lot of salted roasted nuts, and some whipped cream.”