Freezing Food - Emergency Care Freezing Food - Emergency Care

If you know or suspect that power will be off in your house, set the freezer control to between -10° and -20°F immediately. The colder the freezer and foods, the longer foods stay frozen.

If power fails or a mechanical failure occurs, do not open the freezer. Opening the door will hasten thawing of foods. Foods stay frozen longer if the freezer is full, in a cool area and well insulated. Usually, foods in a loaded freezer will stay frozen for two to four days depending on its size. A half-filled freezer will keep foods frozen only about 24 hours. Cover the freezer with blankets to help hold in the cold. Pin the blanket away from the air vent. The air vent must be kept open since air is needed when electricity comes on.

If power is not to be resumed within one to two days or if the freezer is not back to normal operation in that time, use dry ice to keep the temperature below freezing and to prevent deterioration or spoilage of frozen foods. To locate dry ice, check with local food companies, chemists or druggists. When dry ice is obtained quickly after a power interruption, 50 pounds of dry ice should keep the temperature of food in a full 20 cubic foot freezer below freezing for three to four days. Twenty-five pounds of dry ice should hold the temperature in a half full 10 cubic foot freezer for two or three days.

Place dry ice on boards or heavy cardboard on top of the packages. Do not handle dry ice with bare hands; it can cause burns. When using dry ice, the room should be ventilated. Once the dry ice is in the freezer, open the door only when necessary. If you cannot get dry ice, try to locate a locker plant and move foods there in insulated boxes.

Refreezing Accidentally Thawed Foods

Some partially thawed foods can be refrozen. However, the texture will not be as good.

Meat and Poultry

Refreeze if the freezer temperature is 40°F or below and if color and odor are good. Check each package, and discard if signs of spoilage such as an off-color or off-odor are present.


Refreeze only if ice crystals are still present or if the freezer temperature is 40°F or below.


Refreeze if they show no signs of spoilage. Thawed fruits may be used in cooking or making jellies, jams and preserves. Fruits survive thawing with the least damage to quality.

Shellfish and Cooked Foods

Refreeze only if ice crystals are still present or the freezer is 40°F or below. If the condition is questionable, throw the food out.

Ice Cream

If partially thawed, throw it out. Its texture after thawing is not acceptable. If its temperature reaches above 40°F, it could be unsafe.

Written by Susan Reynolds, M.S., former Extension Foods Specialist, University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Athens. First published: February 1994. Reviewed: June 1998.
Courtesy of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)

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