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Frozen food after power outage

Posted by ajsmama (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 4, 11 at 17:22

I have an 8 cf chest freezer in the basement, lots of big hunks of meat (whole turkey, chicken, roasts) and some vaccuum-sealed packages. Power went out 6 pm Sat and restored 1:30pm yesterday, but we ran a generator for 1.5 hrs on Tues and another 1.5hrs on Wed. I checked the freezer before we ran the generator each day - don't have a thermometer but the pork roasts on top (wrapped in butcher paper) seemed frozen solid (no give), same with the vaccuum-sealed beef. Berries and bread products on top were thawed (but berries had ice crystals), Steam Bag veggies were soft but some hard ice crystals. Freezer had frost on the inside walls, no condensation on the outside and no water coming from the drain plug, no frozen puddles in the bottom inside, and packages of chicken (original store Styrofoam packages) not stuck together, so I don't think anything but fruits and veggies thawed out.

Is the meat safe to store and use within the next month? What about the vegetables? Emergency management guide says OK as long as temp didn't exceed 41 F for more than 2 hrs (supposed to open the freezer and measure every 2 hrs) it's OK. Our house was 45 for most of the week, the basement was probably less.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Frozen food after power outage

You're probably OK. If the freezer was mostly full and had lots of larger items (whole turkey, etc.) there is a considerable thermal mass to delay thawing, especially if the box is left closed.
Personally, if it's edibles that get cooked I wouldn't give it a second thought. BUT! if in doubt, throw it out.
Just went through the same thing...


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

I keep the freezer full at all times. When removing food, add plastic bottles of water to fill the area to keep it cold so you don't run power to cool the air. When the power goes out I do not open the freezer until power comes back on, unless it's to quickly take food out. Every time you open the door you let in warmer air and condensation, and release cold air. But then the freezer does not kick on to cool the warm air you just let in. So opening the door every two hours speeds up the thawing process. You could leave a thermometer in there and just quickly look at it every once in a while but I wouldn't even do that.


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

Hi ajsmama,

From what you posted, I too think you're ok keeping the food.

Just for preping for future outages, I offer the following advice from 72 Hours, a Canadian Emergency Preparedness organization on checking if your freezer defrosted while on vacation.

As a general precaution, keep a bag of ice cubes in the freezer. If you return home after a period of absence and the ice has melted and refrozen, there is a good chance that the food is spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out!

I'd say the same rule applies for a power outage when you're home. Keep a bag of ice cubes in the freezer. If they melt, the food should be consumed ASAP.

FWIW,

Bill


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

Thanks - that part o the state's emergency food safety guide didn't make sense - I can see if you have a glass-door fridge, but a freezer (walk-in or otherwise) should be left closed. I just checked it once per day before running the generator to make sure stuff hadn't thawed (removed the strawberries when I found them leaking on the pork roasts) since the last time I had checked.

My dad has an upright freezer about the same capacity, was running his generator about 2 hrs in the AM and 2 in the PM every day, but everything except the stuff on the top (!?) shelf thawed. Wouldn't you know, I had emptied my kitchen freezer of fish and shrimp, meatballs, lunchmeat, etc. and brought them to his house since he had the generator (I didn't know my uncle had one that we could borrow for a little bit each day). I threw my stuff on the bottom of the upright and it all thawed :-(

Any idea about the veggies? I pretty much had turkey and chicken in the middle with pies, coffee, bread, etc. on top of them, then pork, chicken pieces and beef stew chunks on the side "shelf" right over the compressor, and stackable bins of frozen veggies to the right, over the drain plug. No big chunks of "ice" to keep the veggies frozen over there. Think they're OK if I felt ice crystals in the steam bags, maybe some loss of texture, but safe to eat?

Wouldn't you know I had just hit some good sales and had stocked the freezer to the gills - but about half with veggies and fish (I did find a couple lbs of individually wrapped fish fillets in between the roasts, I think they might be OK but if they smell funny when I defrost to cook I will throw them out).


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ice cubes

Great tip Bill! We have ice through the door of the fridge, but I will be sure to keep a bag in each freezer from now on. I assume that if they're identifiable cubes (even if stuck together from a little defrosting and refreezing, like you get with an auto-defrost freezer) that the food is OK, but one slab of ice (or slush!) in the bag is BAD...


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

I actually use popsicles instead of ice cubes to keep a check on the freezer.

We were only without power for 48 hours here. My big chest freezer in the basement did fine - didn't loose anything in there. But the freezer in the side by side - we "lost" the stuff in the door only. We were fortunate to be awake when the power went back on - so checked the freezer. The meat on the shelves were still frozen solid. The fruits in veggies looked fine. There was a tiny bit of melting in the ice cube drawer. But the popsicles and the frozen juice in the door was melted. I threw the popsicles out, but just put the juice in the refrigerator. I'm going to try to eat everything from that freezer in the next few weeks.

In the meantime DH is getting quotes to hardwire a generator. Looks like we can get it done for ~$6,500. Maybe Santa will bring us one for Christmas.


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

Good idea Bill, thanks!


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

My parents had popsicles (the kind on a stick wrapped in paper, not the ones in plastic "tubes") in their upright freezer. All melted, even right after running generator. I think the pork chops on the top shelf were frozen solid, don't know how warm they might have gotten in between "shots" of electricity, but I really think I should throw out the 5 lbs of hot dogs I brought home to put in my chest freezer - they were cold, but thawed, and who knows how warm they might have gotten at some point. Same with the big bag of Chicken Voila in Alfredo sauce - bag had some frozen chunks in it, but overall was pretty squishy. What's a few more things given that on Sunday we threw out all my mom's Jenny Craig meals she's just bought a few days before, and on Thursday threw out a good 40-50 lbs of veggies, chicken pot pies, chicken cordon bleu, stuffed peppers etc. that my mom had bought for my dad to eat while she was on a business trip, plus about 10 lbs of tilapia and shrimp?

My dad also had a sandwich-sized bag with 3 hard hot-dog-shaped things I think might have been venison sausage - not frozen solid, I'm sure, maybe smoked? Insisted I take that to put in my freezer. I have no idea what it is, so don't know if anyone can tell me if they're safe. I have to tell him to watch his blueberries for mold, too, though I think he uses them frozen on his cereal, now they've refrozen into a solid chunk. I'd just as soon make jam out of them like I plan to do with my blackberries and strawberries.

DH is looking at whole-house generators too. I'm thinking of seeing whether we can add our well pump to the 100A subpanel our HVAC, water heater and basement freezer are already on. I don't know if inspector will let us permanently change the fridge to go on the subpanel as well as the well pump, unless we put our resistive Aux Heat for the heat pump on the main panel (even in the dead of winter I think we can survive with geothermal and sweaters). Gotta think how to swap things around to balance the load and get all the necessities on that 100A panel. Then maybe an $800 generator will do.


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

Another tip for those worried about freezer contents during outages, you can buy relatively inexpensive battery fridge/freezer thermometers. We have two upright freezers in the basement so I picked up one of these; Digital Fridge and Freezer Alarm Thermometer.

If you only have one freezer, this should do; Digital Fridge or Freezer Alarm Thermometer

The fewer times you have to open the door the better.

Bill


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

If the food has only just thawed, you don't have to throw it all away. You can cook it all right now, and either have a feast or put in fridge or can it or even put it back in the freezer after cooking it. I think that's why they have Hurricane Parties down south, to clean out the freezer when the power goes out. It's hotter down there and the freezer won't stay cold as long.

Figure how long something would stay good if you took it out of the freezer and thawed it in the fridge. You wouldn't throw it away immediately after it thawed in the fridge, would you? You could keep it in there a few days then cook it. If it thawed in the freezer and the freezer stayed at least as cold as the fridge, what's the difference.


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RE: Frozen food after power outage

Hot dogs said "fully cooked" so he figured he'd take a chance on them, like you said (if) the freezer stayed around 40-41 max it's the same as the fridge and he would keep hot dogs in the fridge for a week OK. He got power back last night, so came and picked up his frozen stuff today. Unfortunately, his washing machine quit today - says it started filling, then just shut off and now he can't even get the door open b/c it's a front loader.

Unrelated, but the alternator went in DH's SUV yesterday *on the way to work!* Just as we were about to trade it in, too (would have last w/e but the storm hit - he's got new car all picked out, negotiated price and trade-in with dealer already). What a week! And we still don't know when the kids are going back to school (we think Tuesday)...


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