A freezer is an absolute lifesaver when it comes to food preparation and storage. You can freeze just about anything, and what you freeze can last indefinitely. But that doesn't mean that every food item will taste good when you thaw and cook it, especially if it's been in your freezer for a year or more. Here are six signs that you should think twice before eating that meat in your freezer.

1. Color Change

Beef and poultry will change color when they are frozen for a long period of time. Uncooked beef will turn from red to brown, and raw chicken will turn white. This doesn't mean that it isn't safe to eat, but it is a sign that the flavor will not be what you expect.

2. Freezer Burn

Frozen Pork Sausage Links with Frost Isolated on White with a Clipping Path

If you have opened up a storage container and found that large ice crystals have formed a thick layer over your food, you did not store the food properly. Technically, the food is still edible, but the ice coating has "burned" your food, and that will result in less flavor and a drier texture.

When beef burns in the freezer, it will have dry spots that look gray or brown. Proteins like pork, fish, and chicken will also be dry and lack flavor.

To prevent this from happening, eliminate all the air you can by using airtight plastic freezer bags instead of storage containers.

3. Frozen Puddles

Close up of freezer burned ground beef

If you have a freezer bag sitting in an icy puddle, then it is time to toss it. This usually means that the food started to thaw at some point, and the temperature was compromised. The food is no longer safe to eat.

4. Ripped Packaging

If you open a package of meat or fish and discover that the packaging is ripped, the food will likely have some freezer burn. You can opt to cut off the parts that are burned, but if there is too much damage, just throw the food out.

5. Weird Smell

Properly stored meat in the freezer

When you defrost the meat in your freezer, and it doesn't smell right, it's not worth cooking. If the meat was not in an airtight bag or container, chances are there was some freezer burn and moisture loss, and some smells have transferred from one food to another.

6. No Label

When you toss food into the freezer without labeling it, that can cause some problems, especially if you do it frequently. When you find yourself digging through your freezer, questioning what things are and how long they have been there, you are better off tossing the items in the garbage than thawing and cooking them.

It is always a good idea to get into the habit of labeling and dating the food you store in the freezer or refrigerator.

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