- Yes, you can freeze canned foods.
- Just about any canned food can be safely frozen indefinitely, but doing so can result in some of the nutrients depleting, the flavor changing, and the texture potentially becoming mushy - especially for canned fruits and vegetables.
- Freezing canned foods is only recommended after opening or to extend the shelf-life of a product that will soon expire.
- If the canned food item is damaged, bloated, or rusted, it’s not safe to consume and should be thrown out.
Canned foods are very reliable products thanks to their prolonged shelf-life and durable packaging, but can you freeze canned foods?
Yes, you can freeze canned foods. Just about any canned food can be safely frozen indefinitely, but doing so can result in some of the nutrients depleting, the flavor changing, and the texture potentially becoming mushy - especially for canned fruits and vegetables.
After extensively researching food storage preparation, I have gathered enough information to determine if canned foods can be frozen. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at how freezing temperatures affect canned foods and whether they are safe to consume after being frozen.
Can You Freeze Canned Foods?
Freezing is one of the best ways to secure the shelf-life of virtually any food product. By storing food in your freezer, you can control the storage environment, which will prevent bacteria from spreading. This allows you to push back the expiration date of many frozen foods indefinitely.
A food item that people rarely store in the freezer is canned goods. Unlike most of the foods in your home, canned goods already come in a closed container that preserves the contents and prevents contamination. However, some people still want to extend the shelf-life of their canned foods further by keeping them in the freezer.
That being said, you can freeze canned foods in your freezer safely. So long as the packaging is intact and the expiration date of the canned food item is not too far gone, freezing can secure the shelf-life for years.
Which Canned Foods Can Be Frozen?
While you can safely freeze most canned food items, you may find that some do not handle cold temperatures as well. Freezing food often changes its consistency and can impact texture, as well as flavor.
Frozen canned goods such as fruits and vegetables, in particular, may become a bit mushy and softer after being frozen, the same as when you buy frozen produce at the store. Aside from this, most canned foods can be frozen without the quality of the product changing much.
Can You Freeze Canned Foods After Opening?
While canned foods are great for long-term storage due to their impressive expiration dates, the shelf-life of these products becomes very short as soon as you open them.
One of the best ways to secure the shelf-life of canned foods after opening them is to store them in the freezer. This is a great way to prevent waste and to safely use canned goods down the line, in case they were opened accidentally.
That said, even if you keep your opened canned food in the freezer, it’s important to take extra precautions to prevent contamination. Make sure to store the canned food in an airtight sealed container so that air and moisture do not spoil the contents.
What Happens to Canned Foods After Freezing?
If you want to make your canned foods last as long as possible, the freezer is a great resource to extend shelf-life. However, if your canned goods are nowhere near their expiration date, this may not be a necessary practice.
The main reason is that freezing canned foods may negatively impact the contents. This can ultimately affect the nutrient value of foods, as well as how they taste.
Loss of Nutrients
The bottom line is that when you freeze certain canned food items, they begin to lose some of their essential nutrients. For most meat products, nutrient depletion is not a major concern and you can safely freeze canned meats without many negative effects.
However, canned produce will begin to lose nutrients in the freezer, especially if they are left frozen for more than one year. This is a key reason why canned vegetables and fruits are rarely kept in the freezer.
Fruit is known for changing flavor slightly after being frozen. You can expect this to be the case with any canned fruit that you store in the freezer.
The cold temperatures cause the fruit to expand and burst. This will release natural sugars in the fruit making it taste sweeter. This can actually be a benefit for anyone who prefers a sweeter taste when eating fruit. That said, I personally find that frozen canned fruits start to taste more tart than I would like.
The most noticeable change you will likely encounter with canned produce items after freezing is that their texture changes. Canned fruits and vegetables may become more soft and mushy after being frozen.
For other canned goods such as meats and soups, the texture should not be affected much by the freezing process.
How Long Can You Freeze Canned Foods For?
Given that freezers are used to extend the shelf life of standard perishable goods exponentially, they will have the same effect on your canned goods.
You can safely freeze canned food for years without having to worry about the quality of the food being affected too much. As I mentioned above, nutrient depletion and changes in flavor and texture are to be expected, but the canned food item should be safe to eat nonetheless.
So long as the packaging stays intact and is not damaged or exposed to the external environment, you should be able to safely eat any canned food years or even decades after it was frozen. Keep in mind that the canned food should be frozen consistently for this entire time without being thawed repeatedly.
How to Thaw Canned Foods After Freezing
Thawing your food items properly after freezing is important to retain their quality and prevent contamination. Whether you are thawing canned goods or any other type of food item, you should ideally be doing so slowly in a stable environment.
The best way to thaw your canned foods is in the fridge. Most experts say that 40F is the best temperature for safely thawing frozen food items after a deep freeze. A slow thaw will prevent the chances of bacteria spreading, which can ultimately be a safety hazard. Follow these steps to thaw your canned foods:
- Remove canned foods from the freezer
- Inspect cans for any damage or bloating (throw it out if so)
- Place canned food items inside the fridge
- Set fridge to 40F
- Wait for 6 to 8 hours
Should You Freeze Canned Foods?
There is a reason why you rarely see canned food items being stored in the freezer, it’s unnecessary. Although freezing does extend the expiration date of pretty much all food items, canned goods already have a prolonged shelf-life.
Most canned food items will last for at least 3 to 5 years when stored at room temperature. This shelf-life can be improved even more if stored in ideal conditions such as in a dry, cool, and dark room that is away from direct sunlight.
With upwards of 5+ years before going bad, canned food items do not require any additional storage measures such as freezing. The shelf-life is already satisfactory and most canned goods are quite cheap and affordable to replace.
That being said, I would only recommend keeping canned foods in the freezer if they’ve been accidentally frozen or if you’ve opened an item and want to preserve the contents to prevent waste. Alternatively, freezing canned food items can also be beneficial if you have a stock of goods that is nearing its expiration date.
How to Tell if Frozen Canned Food is Dangerous to Eat
When it comes to food storage practices, safety should always be priority number one. You need to ensure that your goods are safe to consume before you cook with them or eat them.
Frozen canned foods should generally be safe to consume provided they have been stored and handled properly. However, you should avoid eating canned foods if you notice any of the following signs.
1. Damaged Can
You should never eat frozen canned food if you see any noticeable damage on the can. This would include cans with the following types of damage:
If you see visible damage on the can, chances are it will also be leaking fluid. A damaged can implies that the contents will have been exposed to the external environment and may be contaminated by air, moisture, or some type of bacteria. This can ultimately result in food poisoning and falling ill.
2. Bloated Can
A big red flag for any canned food item, regardless of whether it's been frozen, is if it's bloated, bulging, or swollen. This implies that the contents of the canned goods may be compromised and unsafe to eat.
A bloated can is often correlated with botulism. This is a rare but extremely dangerous sickness that affects the body’s nerves. Botulism has been known to cause severe illness and even death, which is why you should immediately throw out any bloat you find.
3. Rusted Can
Rust is not a good sign for any canned food. Rust suggests that the can was exposed to the external environment extensively, particularly to moisture.
The rust may have appeared before you stored the can or it may be a result of your freezer malfunctioning and thawing. Either way, rusted cans should be tossed in the garbage immediately.
4. Foul Smell
If the first thing that you smell when you open your thawed canned food is a rancid odor, it’s safe to assume that the contents are contaminated. Canned foods should have a neutral odor or a smell that is appropriate for the food inside.
In case you are on the fence about whether the smell is off or not, my advice is to not eat canned food in this condition and to throw it away.
5. Discolored or Molded
Much like with any food item, discoloration and mold are telltale signs of food being unsafe to eat. After opening the can, the contents should look fresh and natural, without any type of discoloration.
Naturally, mold will be an immediate red flag, and you will likely smell the odor coming from the can before you even see the spoiled food.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker