FAQ · Freezer · HOW TO

HOW TO: defrost a freezer in 10 easy steps

I think it might be time to defrost...

Most refrigerator-freezers and many standalone freezers feature automatic defrost, but for long-term food storage, manual defrost freezers can be the best option.

So when the ice crystals lining the walls of your manual defrost freezer stacks ¼- to ½- inch, it’s time to defrost.

Don’t lose your cool. It’s easier than you think, using these 10 steps adapted from Frigidaire:

1. Unplug your freezer. This keeps you from being electrocuted.

2. Open the freezer door and keep it open throughout the process.

3. Remove food into a cooler

4. On upright freezers with a defrost drain, remove the drain plug on the inside floor
of the freezer by pulling straight out. To access external drain tube on models with a
base panel, first remove the two screws from the base panel. Locate the drain tube
near the left center under the freezer. Place a shallow pan under the drain tube. Defrost
water will drain out. Check pan occasionally so water does not overflow. A ½ inch
garden hose adapter can be used to drain the freezer directly into a floor drain. If your
model is not equipped with an adapter, one can be purchased at most hardware
stores. Replace the drain plug when defrosting and cleaning are completed. If the
drain is left open, warm air may enter freezer.

5. On chest freezers with a defrost drain, place a shallow pan or the Divider/Drain Pan
(some models) beneath the drain outlet (Figure 2). A ½ inch garden hose adapter can
be used to drain the freezer directly into a floor drain (Figure 3). If your model is not
equipped with an adapter, one can be purchased at most hardware stores. Pull out
the drain plug inside the freezer, and pull off the outside defrost drain plug (Figure 4).
Defrost water will drain out. Check pan occasionally so water does not overflow.
Replace the drain plugs when defrosting is completed.

***If you don’t have a defrost drain, line the freezer bottom with towels to catch
the frost. The frost will loosen and fall. Remove towels and/or newspapers.

6. If the frost is soft, remove it by using a plastic scraper (or if you’re a cheap & hardy Minnesotan like me, an old CD).
7. If the frost is hard, fill deep pans with hot water and place them on the freezer bottom. Close the freezer door. Frost should soften in about 15 minutes, after which you can refer to No. 6. Repeat if necessary.

8. After defrosting, wash inside surfaces and removable parts of the freezer with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda in one quart warm water. Rinse and dry. Wring excess water
out of the sponge or cloth when cleaning in the area of the controls, or any electrical parts.
Never use metallic scouring pads, brushes, abrasive cleaners, nor alkaline solutions on any surface.

9. Replace drain plug and food.

10. Close freezer door.

cooking · Food · Freezer

A freezer with a side of beef

Readers of this blog know my love of photos of animals inside appliances...this is a bit different.

Being cheap and running low on the supply of my boyfriend’s game meat, I’m intrigued by the concept of cow-pooling, or sharing an entire animal carcass with a few others.

I’ve heard of more people doing it, and while it sounds nutty at first, buying a whole cow offers more affordable ($3 to $5 per pound) access to normally (outrageously) expensive pasture-raised or grass-fed beef.

Your refrigerator’s freezer compartment probably won’t have a cow…not a whole or half one, at least.

But chest freezers and upright freezers are surprisingly affordable, starting below $190 for a 5 cubic foot model. In general, 50 pounds of meat fits in 2.25 cubic feet of freezer space. A half cow takes up about 10 cubic feet of freezer space. And stored properly, the meat stays tasty for 12 months.

Something to keep in mind: when storing meats and other foods for periods longer than say, six months, it’s best to purchase a manual defrost freezer. While manually defrosting a freezer is a pain in the butt, frost-free freezers remove more moisture from the air in the freezer, which can degrade the quality of the meat over time (i.e. freezer burn).

One of my favorite magazines, Cooking Light offers more tips on buying and storing beef in bulk.

Has anyone ever bought a whole or half animal carcass? Where did you keep it? Would you do it again?

Appliance Design · Food · Freezer · Product Roundup · Refrigerator · Wine storage

Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer refrigerator drawers

Don’t get me wrong. I love my full-size, bottom-freezer refrigerator. But occasionally, my freezer runs out of space while my fresh food compartment maintains plenty and my eyes wander to the grass on the other side…

Recently I’ve been thinking, why can’t my fridge be more adaptable?

I had a very educational conversation with the produce manager of a local grocery last weekend about fresh basil preservation. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to refrigerate it! (Also, those of us in cold temperatures should take special care when transporting fresh basil home, as our subzero air can turn the delicious leaves black.) It should be kept in a cool (50-some degrees) spot.

That’s why I love these multitemperature refrigerated drawers.

Now you see it.
Now you don't.

The Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawer (RB36S25MKIW1) lets you choose freezer, chill, fridge, pantry or wine at the touch of a button so that everything from fresh food to frozen meat to fine wine can be stored at the correct temperature.
So, if you buy a lot of produce one week you have extra fridge space.

Refrigerator (37°F)

Or if a family member comes home with a record catch of fish and the freezer’s full, voila.

Freezer (0°F) (Deep Freezer -13 °F)

If you want to keep it a little colder than the stuff you keep in your fridge, you can do that too.

Chill (31°F)

And if you plunk down more than you’d like for fresh basil and don’t want to see any of it go to waste (or pesto), you’ll love the pantry function.

Pantry (53.5°F)

Having a party? Store your wine and then chill it to precise serving temperature.

Wine (53.5°F for long-term storage, 44.5°F for white wine serving and 59°F for red wine)

And at 36″ wide, the Fisher & Paykel CoolDrawers keep everything in easy, ergonomic reach while being deep enough to fit wine bottles and 2-liter bottles, as shown above.

The spill-proof storage bins can come out or be moved around to do just about anything you need it to.

I'm imagining a Thanksgiving turkey, thawing at the recommended 40 degrees, not crowding my refrigerator for four days.

If you want to see it, we display it at our St. Paul store, our Apple Valley store, our Woodbury store and our Edina store.

And, for being so curious, you will be rewarded with free assorted ice cream treats when you open the drawer.

How sweet is that?

Budget-wise · FAQ · Food · Freezer · Refrigerator

Power out refrigerator tips: What to do when the electricity goes out

Rule No. 1: Don't open your refrigerator or freezer.

Here in Minnesota, we generally suffer a few power outages each winter season. But when the power goes out, your refrigerator is not cooling. So what should you do with all your food?

1. Call the power company
Find out how long the power will be out.

2. If the power outage is less than 24 hours:
Keep the doors shut on both the refrigerator and freezer compartments to keep food cold or frozen. If you’re experiencing a refrigerator power outage for more than 2 hours, you might want to pack dairy and meats into coolers (Styrofoam is fine) filled with ice, says the CDC.

3. If the power will be out for more than 24 hours:
Add 2 lbs of dry ice in the freezer for every cubic foot of freezer space, which will keep the food frozen for two to four days, according to appliance-maker Whirlpool Corp. Otherwise, you’re going to have to eat all that perishable food. Or try canning the food, if you know how.

Thought it seems counter intuitive, a full freezer stays cold longer than a partially filled one and a freezer full of meat stays cold longer than a freezer full of baked goods. A half-full freezer will keep food safe for 24 hours, and a full freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours, according to the CDC.

If food contains ice crystals, you can refreeze it, although the quality and flavor may be affected. Test meats to ensure the temperature hasn’t risen to 40 degrees. Use your gut. If it looks like it’s in rough shape, toss it.

cooking · Food · Freezer · Refrigerator

Preventing freezerburns

Right about now, you’re probably unpacking months’ worth of food from your refrigerator and freezer to make room for all that holiday food.

And you might found some of it had been freezer burned (i.e. brownish, leathery spots indicate freezer burned meat). What causes freezer burn?

Freezeburns are caused by cold air directly contacting your food and/or when your food dries out in the freezer.

Don’t fret, as freezer burnt foods remain safe to consume. The FDA recommends cutting off freeze burn spots before or after cooking (so you don’t have to taste the evidence that you failed to push all the air out of your plastic storage bag).

To prevent freezer burn:

Use only freezer-safe containers, bags and wraps and get as much air out of the packages as you can. It’s the trapped air that will cause your food to dry out, discolor or develop “interesting” new flavors.

This means some frozen foods from the grocery store shouldn’t really go straight to the freezer. For best results, meats should be removed from their packaging and wrapped in freezer wrap and placed in a freezer bag with all the air forced out.

But knowing how to use your freezer in general can help maintain the quality of frozen foods longer.

Don’t put a bunch of warm food to the freezer at one time. This overloads the freezer, slows the rate of freezing, and can raise the temperature of frozen foods. To that point….

Set the freezer at 0°F. The higher the freezer temperature, the faster your frozen foods lose their quality.

Keep the freezer full. It seems logical that less food means you need less cold air to keep it frozen, but that’s actually not the case. A freezer operates most efficiently when it is at least two-thirds full.

Avoid prolonged storage. Make sure you eat the oldest food first. Long-term freezer storage is best suited to a manual defrost freezer, not a freezer compartment, which are mostly frost-free these days.

Make some breathing room. Leave space between items so air can circulate freely, which allows food to freeze as quickly as possible.