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Sorry guys, but I suspect I have a bit of a newbie question here.

When I buy raw chicken breast, I like to open up the package immediately and separate it out into 3 portions because that's roughly the amount I use each time I cook it. If I freeze immediately, it looks a bit like this after I defrost it:

enter image description here

... which is fine. But if I open the packet, then freeze, it looks like this when defrosted:

enter image description here

Clearly the skin is drying out badly. :-) Is there a way I can stop this? I'm thinking of immediately covering the chicken again with clingfilm before refrosting but will that work? Or do I just have to keep it sealed in the packet? If covering it will work, why is that? Is the freezing process sucking moisture out of the skin?

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This is the same chicken breast, showing flipped over, right? It bugged me for a bit and I think I figured it out! –  Jen Aug 10 '11 at 17:11
    
Nice guess. ;-) But the flipped side looks like it should look without freezer burn. :-) –  Jez Aug 10 '11 at 20:19
    
It looks like you need a new cutting board (knife scars on plastic cutting boards can be near impossible to disinfect). –  ESultanik Aug 11 '11 at 13:11
    
@ESultanik Yeah, I could probably do with one. I do fry my chicken extremely hot, though, which should kill off most bacteria. –  Jez Aug 11 '11 at 14:13
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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've actually found a combination of both aluminum foil and clingfilm to give the best protection. The foil is most effective at preventing freezer burn, but does nothing to isolate odors.

Since the freezer is so cold, you don't ordinarily smell much when you stick your head in there, but that doesn't mean that the odors don't spread about, and you'll notice it only once you thaw your chicken (or other food item). That's why I like to wrap my food in clingfilm as well, but more pertinent to your question, the foil is what you want to prevent freezer burn.

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The foil's quite expensive compared to clingfilm; do you think a generous wrapping of clingfilm would do just as well? –  Jez Aug 10 '11 at 7:22
    
You'll have to weight the cost of the foil against the personal cost of having freezer-burned chicken. Personally, I wrap first in plastic wrap, then foil, but you'll want to take the measures that yield results that you find acceptable. –  Ray Aug 10 '11 at 12:46
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The name for what you're seeing is freezer burn. It happens because water sublimates out of the exposed part of the meat while in the freezer, leaving it all dried out and unpleasant looking. To solve the problem, wrap your chicken (or anything else) tightly in plastic wrap, or place in freezer bags and press out all the air before sealing, and then freeze.

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The explanation is correct, but cling wrap isn't airtight. It will work for shorter freezing periods. But for longer freezing (the limit is floating, maybe count > 1 month as long) you'll have to use a vacuum sealer with the proper bags. –  rumtscho Aug 10 '11 at 7:21
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It should be noted there are two types of cling film/plastic wrap: polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE). PVC sticks better. LDPE is much less porous. I'd recommend trying an LDPE wrap, such as Gladwrap. –  derobert Aug 10 '11 at 17:09
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I do this with my chicken every time. Buy the bulk pack and portion out at home. I portion into zipper top bags and lay the chicken inside neatly (single layer, flat as possible) and manually squeeze out all the air before zipping the top. I am a little obsessive about trying to squeeze every last pocket of air out, but am too lazy/cheap to get out my vacuum sealer for chicken (save those bags for more expensive meats). I defrost/use the chicken from 1-12 weeks later and haven't had any freezer burn in years.

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Applying cling wrap should work. If the problems continue, then you might want to invest in a vacuum sealer.

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I like Caleb's answer but I'd just like to add some detail (and I guess get some karma :P)

Caleb's suggestion--wrapping tightly in plastic wrap, is probably a good enough solution if you're using the chicken soon enough. The comment discussion on his answer is somewhat correct--most modern plastic wrap will not prevent freezer burn forever. The formulas for plastic wrap have changed over time and have different molecule permeability protections--some will allow water molecules through (slowly) and some won't.

Your chicken skin is drying out to sublimation--ice converting to water vapor without becoming a liquid first. As I understand it, this is a function of humidity, temperature and pressure. If you had a perfect seal--you'd still get a very small amount of sublimation, but the humidity inside your sealed bag/container would quickly rise to the saturation point. Since the water vapor can't escape, the bag consistently has a high humidity inside and this prevents/minimizes further sublimation.

What vacuum sealers give you is a sealed container, but they're not the only way to do that. I suspect that if you were to freeze a piece of chicken fully immersed in water, it would preserve similarly to a vacuum frozen one.

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