How frost gets inside your ice cream carton may seem like a mystery, but it’s actually simple science. When ice cream in the freezer is exposed to the freezing air in your freezer, moisture evaporates from the ice cream. The moisture then freezes, forming frosty spikes inside your ice cream carton, called freezer burn. The remaining ice cream tastes dry and lacks flavor. Preventing freezer burn in your ice cream is easier than you may think.
Improving the Seal
If you store your opened ice cream in the original carton for more than a few days you risk freezer burn on your ice cream, but you can change that. Covering the ice cream with plastic wrap or waxed paper before closing the carton prevents your ice cream from contacting the air. This means the moisture in the ice cream can't evaporate and create ice crystals. Cover the ice cream so that the wrap fits snugly after every use. Although it won’t keep your ice cream fresh forever, it will slow down the rate of freezer burn and give you time to finish off that carton before it goes bad.
Cutting Out Frost
Another simple option that requires a moment’s work is to trim the top of the carton each time you use your ice cream. This works for cardboard tubs or cartons with a separate cover that slides over the top to seal the container. Cut the cardboard to the level of the ice cream, using care to make an even cut, and slip the cover onto the container to seal it. This prevents your ice cream from contacting the air, reducing evaporation and the chances of freezer burn.
While the original tub or container for your ice cream keeps out air when the container is full, once you take a scoop from the container and introduce air space, you have invited freezer burn to the carton. Removing the ice cream from the carton and repackaging it in an airtight container reduces the risk of freezer burn. Lucy Baker, author and recipe tester for Serious Eats, recommends storing ice cream in shallow containers and covering the ice cream with plastic wrap or waxed paper before closing the container. Special airtight containers for storing ice cream can be purchased, but any airtight plastic freezer container will work.
Eat it Up
The longer your ice cream stays in your freezer, the greater the chance it will develop freezer burn. Get into the habit of buying ice cream in the appropriate sized container for your family and eating it within a week or two for the best quality. Although commercial ice cream will keep in the freezer for up to two months before showing signs of diminished flavor or texture, opened ice cream that is exposed to air develops freezer burn sooner. Homemade ice cream is best eaten within one week, says Lucy Baker.
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