If you’re anything like me, freezer failure could be a disaster. My freezer is packed full of meats and sale items. The first rule of freezer failure is to keep the door closed at all times. The more you open it, the faster everything thaws. If the freezer is well filled, it can remain frozen for up to 48 hours. If your freezer is not filled, I would suggest filling plastic bottles or Tupperware containers with water and freezing those.
When you first discover your freezer isn’t working, try to figure out the cause. It could be something simple, such as a blown fuse. Check your owner’s manual for trouble shooting ideas. In the case of a power failure, check with our electric company to find out how soon you can expect service to be reinstated. If your freezer failed due to a mechanical problem, call a serviceman as soon as possible and ask how soon you can expect help.
If your freezer is not likely to be working within a day, you have two options. The first is to check with friends, neighbors, or local church’s to see if you could move your food into their working freezers. To move your food, use insulated boxes, or if that’s not possible, wrap your frozen food in thick layers of newspaper or blankets.
After your freezer is empty, take the time to defrost and clean it. While the freezer is not working, leave the door open slightly to keep air circulating. As a precaution, make sure the door is fixed so that it cannot be closed, in case a young child climbs inside.
If there isn’t a possibility of moving your food into a working freezer, then use dry ice. To locate a source, check the phone book for ‘carbonic gas’ or ‘dry ice.’ Make sure to wear heavy gloves when handling the dry ice to prevent burning yourself. Also make sure you have the ice cut into small enough pieces to use in your freezer; do not try to cut the ice yourself. Have the ice wrapped in newspapers when you buy it. A fifty pound piece of dry ice is enough to keep a full twenty cubic food freezer frozen for three to four days. A twenty-five pound piece of dry ice is enough to keep a half full 10 cubic foot freezer below freezing for two to three days.
Before using the dry ice, put heavy cardboard on top of your frozen food items. Do not open the freezer unless it is working again or you need to replace the dry ice. The dry ice will evaporate and may leave behind an off odor. This is nothing to worry about, and all you need to do is simply leave the freezer door open for a few minutes to allow the gases to escape into the air.
In the event that some or all of the items in your freezer have thawed, some items can be refrozen. The item might not have the same texture or have an off taste, but it will still be edible. Other items must be thrown away, though.
Meat and poultry can be refrozen if the temperature stays below 40 degrees and the odor and color are good. However, shellfish and cooked foods should never be refrozen unless there are still ice crystals present and the freezer temperature never went above 40 degrees. Check each package individually, and if you are in doubt, throw it away. It’s really not worth the risk of getting sick.
Vegetables should be refrozen only if ice crystals are still present and the temp never went below 40 degrees. Fruits, however, can almost always be refrozen. The thawed fruits can also be used in a variety of recipes, including jams, jellies, preserves, and various desserts.
Ice cream, creamed foods, puddings, and cream pies should never be refrozen unless you are sure the temperature never went about 40 degrees. However, breads, nuts, doughnuts, cookies, and cakes can almost always be refrozen as long as there is no sign of mold growth.
Hopefully your freezer will never fail you, but in the event it does, I hope you are able to salvage as much as possible. If you are planning to go away for more than a couple of days, I would suggest putting a Ziploc bag full of ice cubes into your freezer before you leave. When you return, if the ice cubes are still intact, you know your freezer hadn’t been off for any reason, but if the ice cubes have thawed and refrozen into one flat chunk, you know to discard the items in your freezer.