HomeKitchenHow Long Will Food Last In A Freezer Without Power?

How Long Will Food Last In A Freezer Without Power?

When the power goes out, one of the things we are anxious about the most is the food in the fridge and freezer spoiling. 

Depending on how long the power outage lasts and how well you are prepared for it, your food doesn’t necessarily have to go. There’s no need to go into panic mode – just keep reading and you’ll know exactly what to do the next time the power goes out. 

Since groceries are getting more and more expensive, no one wants to have to throw anything away unless absolutely necessary. Here are the basic measures you should implement, and everything you need to know about how long food can last in a freezer without power. 

How Long Will Food Last in A Freezer Without Power?

Depending on how stocked your freezer is, it can hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours if it is full, or about 24 hours if it is half full: assuming that the door remains closed all the time. 

If you are not sure whether it is safe to refreeze food after a power outage, check if there are any ice crystals on it. Ice crystals indicate that it can be safely refrozen. Also, if you have a thermometer in the freezer, and it shows that the temperature did not rise above 4°C (40°F), then it is usually safe to refreeze. Never taste food to determine if it is safe to refreeze – bacteria may have already started developing. If in doubt, throw it away. 

Foods That You Should Throw Away

If the power outage lasts for more than 48 hours (or 24 hours if the freezer is half full), it’s important to assess the condition of the food in the freezer to determine what should be thrown away. 

Here’s a general guideline for determining which food items to discard if they have thawed or been held at a temperature above 4°C (40°F) for more than 2 hours:

  • Meat, poultry, seafood (all types of cuts)
  • Stews, soups
  • Milk
  • Eggs (out of their shell) and egg products
  • Ice cream, frozen yoghurt
  • Cheese (soft and semi-soft)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Cheesecake
  • Fruits, if mould, a yeasty smell, or sliminess develops
  • Fruit juices, both home-made and store-bought 
  • Vegetables, after they have been held above 4°C (40°F) for 6 hours
  • Vegetable juices, home-made and store-bought
  • Melted ice cream 
  • Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling
  • Casseroles: pasta or rice-based
  • Frozen meals, entrees, specialty items

Remember to trust your gut and inspect each item individually. If any item shows signs of spoilage, discard it to ensure food safety. If you are not sure whether to keep the food or discard it, it’s better to err on the side of caution and prioritise food safety. Consuming spoiled or contaminated food can lead to food poisoning. I know you would rather not be throwing food out, but you don’t want to get ill if you can avoid it. 

Food That You Can Consider Keeping

Even if your freezer has been without power for more than 24 hours, there are certain foods that you can consider keeping. However, only keep them if there are still ice crystals on the food and if it feels cold as if refrigerated:

  • Hard cheeses
  • Breads, rolls, muffins and cakes (without a dairy-based filling) 
  • Pie crusts, both home-made and store-bought
  • Waffles, pancakes, bagels 

The general rule is to check if the centre of the item is still frozen and if there are ice crystals on it. If it still feels cold and has not completely melted, and it’s a sturdy item that does not contain milk, meat or other perishables, you can probably keep it. 

If there is any mould, if the item looks slimy or has started to change colour or smell: toss it. 

When it comes to ice cream, I’m sorry to have to tell you that you should throw it away if it’s melted. The milk it contains can go bad, plus it will really not taste as good as it used to, even if it does not spoil. 

What Should You Do With Your Freezer While the Power Is Out

The first thing you should do with your freezer during a power outage is to unplug the appliance to prevent power surge damage once the power is restored. You should also refrain from opening the doors, to ensure the temperature inside stays stable. 

You can also use surge protectors to keep your appliance safe if you cannot unplug it in time. This is good practice for all kinds of emergencies, not just power outages, and it can save you a lot of money in repairs. 

After unplugging the freezer, it is best to keep the doors closed. The temperature inside will remain low and your items won’t start to melt immediately, so you want to prevent any warm air from entering the compartments. Don’t keep checking how much things have melted: wait until the power is back to open the freezer

If you know the power cut will last longer than 24 hours, you can also remove all of your food and consume or cook whatever you can. Share with your friends and family to prevent throwing anything out. 

How To Keep Food Frozen While the Power Is Out

You can prepare for a power outage and keep your food frozen while the power is out by using frozen water containers, ice, and gel packs. These help keep your food at 4°C (40°F) or below.

You can also prepare a cooler and ice packs which will help keep your food cold if you remove it from the fridge or freezer.

Another way to keep your food frozen is to use dry ice or block ice if you think the power will be out for a long time. However, make sure to follow safety precautions when handling dry ice:

  • Wear gloves or use tongs to handle dry ice. Ensure proper ventilation in the area where the freezer is located to prevent carbon dioxide build-up.
  • Place the dry ice on the top shelf or in a container on a wire rack inside the freezer. This creates a barrier between the dry ice and the food items. Avoid direct contact between the dry ice and the food as it can cause freezing or freezer burn.
  • The amount of dry ice needed depends on the size of the freezer and the duration of the power outage. As a general guideline, 4.5 to 9 kilograms (10 to 20 pounds) of dry ice can typically keep a small to medium-sized freezer cold for up to 24 to 48 hours.

Always prioritise your safety and follow the guidelines provided by your dry ice suppliers or local authorities.

What To Do With The Freezer After a Power Cut

Once the power is back, plug your freezer back in and turn it on if you have unplugged it. Wait a couple of hours before opening the doors and checking the state of your food. 

Give the freezer some time to establish normal operations before you start taking items out. If you open the door too soon, too much warm air will enter and the freezer will need to work extra hard to keep temperatures down. This can overwork the appliance, and it will also impact your energy bill. 

Then go through your freezer and, depending on how long the power cut was, throw out anything that has likely spoiled, even if it appears to be okay. Ice cream should be the first to go, along with any items that contain lots of milk or meat. 

How To Prepare Your Freezer for a Power Outage

If you know there will be a power outage in your area, it is best to be prepared and buy extra bags of ice to keep in your freezer to help maintain its temperature (the ideal freezer temperature is -18°C (0°F) or below).

If your freezer has an ice maker, you can use the ice and place it into gallon-sized storage bags each time the tray is full. It is also recommended to keep bottles of water in your freezer if it is not full – it will help keep frozen foods cold longer, but also provide you with a supply of fresh drinking water in case you need it.

You can also prepare a cooler with ice packs and place your food there. If you don’t have a cooler, it is also possible to use dry ice in your freezer – you can follow the tips in the section above for handling dry ice properly.

Wrapping Up 

If you know a power outage is coming, consider how best to keep your frozen foods safe. You can pull a Joey and eat everything from the freezer, or you can come up with alternative cooling methods. If the power cut is only going to be a short one, don’t worry: your food will stay safe and frozen. 


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