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How long will my frozen food last in a power cut?

Discover how long your frozen food will last during a power cut, and what you can do to help stop it going off.

If you’ve had a power cut, you may be wondering what you can do with all that amazing food you have stored in your freezer. Most models will keep their temperature for about a day, but any longer than that and you’ll need to have a bit of a clear out. In our guide, we’ll tell you how you can keep your favourite goodies fresh, safe and tasting great in an emergency.

Help! I've got a power cut...

Don’t panic! If you’re at home during a power cut, there are some things you can do to slow down the thawing of your frozen food. One of the most important things to do is to keep the freezer door closed as much as possible, so that warm air doesn’t get into the freezer cavity. Some freezers, like this Fridgemaster model, have a power failure safety feature. This keeps your food frozen for at least 24 hours, so there’s no need to worry about your food being ruined. If the power has gone while you’ve been out, don’t taste your food to see if it’s gone off. If you’re going to be in the dark for a while, you might want to buy some ice to try and keep your food cool.

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Frozen meat, fish and poultry

When a power cut hits and your freezer starts to thaw, it’s vital that you take out your meat, fish and poultry and keep it in a container somewhere cool, away from your other food. This will keep any juices from contaminating other types of food. When the power comes back on, check your meat and fish for ice crystals. If there are ice crystals there and your food feels as cold as it would if it had just come out of the fridge, then it’s safe to refreeze. If your meat is completely thawed and been at room temperature for over two hours, it’s probably safer to get rid. This also goes for meat that’s already been cooked, like your leftover casseroles and ready meals.

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Frozen fruit and veg

Generally, your frozen fruit and veg should survive a power cut unharmed. Whether you’ve frozen them yourself or they’ve come commercially packaged, fruit and vegetables are pretty tough. They might experience a slight change in texture and flavour, but should be absolutely fine to cook and eat. It is always best to go with your instincts though, so if you start to smell mould or it looks like there’s a layer of slime on your food, it’s time to throw them out.

Frozen bread and pastry

Most of your bread and pastry should be safe to refreeze, whether it’s thawed out completely or still partially frozen. Bread usually fares a little better than pastry when it’s refrozen, and is fine to be toasted or thawed out and used for your sandwiches. Some readymade dough might lose its texture when it’s refrozen – but should still be safe to eat. The only time to consider throwing away your ready-made breads or pastries is if they contain a dairy filling such as custard, cheese or fresh cream. If this is left at room temperature for over two hours, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What about other treats?

If you have your favourite snacks stored in your freezer, don’t worry – most of them can be saved! Although melted ice cream and frozen yoghurt will have to be the first to go, your sweet cakes, waffles, pancakes, and fruit pies can still be refrozen if they’ve defrosted. For the first 48 hours of your power cut, your pizzas and frozen chips should be safe to refreeze. However, if you’ve hit that two day mark they will need to be binned.

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Cook up a feast

If you find yourself left with a pile of rapidly defrosting ingredients, try doing some batch cooking rather than throwing them away. If you bulk buy joints of meat and fish, these are great for popping in a casserole or a stew, or even something more exotic like this spicy lamb chop dish.

Frozen veg can be used to add a bit of depth to your dishes, so you can get your five a day and make sure you don’t waste any of your food! Slow cookers are perfect for making large batches of food, as you can fit so much in and just leave it to cook. Frozen fruit can be popped in a blender to whip up a batch of smoothies, along with frozen yoghurt – or even your ice cream for a cheeky milkshake treat.

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