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How Long Will Food Last in the Freezer Without Power?

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By Elizabeth Masterman

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Maybe you’re sitting in darkness, wondering what to panic about first. Or maybe you’ve just had a letter through from your energy provider to warn you that your power is going to be turned off. Either way, you’ll want to know how long the food in your freezer will last without power.

How Long Will Food Last in the Freezer Without Power?

As long as you keep the door shut, the food in your fridge should stay at a safe temperature for 4 to 6 hours in a fridge, while the food in your freezer should be ok for 15 to 24 hours if the freezer is half full or 48 hours if it is full. 

What Should You Do with Your Freezer During a Power Cut?

Absolutely nothing!

The golden rule is to keep the doors shut to stop warm air from getting in. It can be tough to do, but the best thing to do is step away and allow the seal on your freezer to do its job.

What Should You Do With Your Freezer After a Power Cut?

Once power is restored, check the temperature immediately.

If it has been longer than the recommended 4 to 6 hours for a fridge or 24 to 48 hours for a freezer, if the temperature hasn’t got higher than 4oC and -18oC, respectively, then the food inside will still be safe to store and to eat.

Examine frozen food carefully: if there are still ice crystals, then it will still be safe to eat.

Anything from the freezer that has defrosted but is still cold is safe to eat in the same way you would if you had defrosted it intentionally.

If the temperature has risen above these temperatures, harmful bacteria will likely have started to grow, so it’s safest to dispose of any perishable food and drink, such as meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and cheese.

Check food carefully and get rid of any items with an unusual smell, colour or texture.

Never taste food or drink to check if it is safe. You could risk making yourself very ill!

What Food is Safe in a Freezer During a Power Cut?

There are some items you might have stored in your freezer that are still usable even if the power was off for longer than 48 hours, as long as you use them as soon as possible and cook them thoroughly before eating them.

These include bread, muffins, pastry and defrosted fruit. The texture may be ruined, but they will be safe to eat. Fruit in particular, if you have frozen it for smoothies, will be fine.

Frozen Fruit

What Food is Safe in a Fridge During a Power Cut?

In the fridge, even if the power was off for more than 6 hours, there are likely to be several items that are less perishable and are, therefore, still safe to eat.

These include hard cheese, like parmesan; fats, like butter, margarine and lard; whole fresh fruit and vegetables; eggs; unopened yoghurt; pasteurised fruit juice; and many jams, preserves and condiments. 

How Can You Prepare for a Power Cut?

Sometimes the electricity company will warn you ahead of time that they will have to switch the power off for essential maintenance work. Or you might just like to be prepared for every eventuality. So what can you do to prepare yourself?

Buy block ice or freeze containers of water and ice packs. Think of your freezer as being a giant cool box. Even without any power, it is still thoroughly insulated, so filling it with ice packs like you would a cool box will help keep everything cooler for longer.

If you fill containers with water, leave space to allow the liquid to expand when it freezes; otherwise, it could explode.

If it’s a planned power outage, you could move items towards the bottom or back of the freezer, since warm air rises, and pack items closely together.

It can also be beneficial to wrap thick blankets around your fridge and freezer to add an extra layer of insulation.

Don’t be tempted to try and store food outside, even if it’s cold outside, as temperatures are likely to be inconsistent and unpredictable. You also risk exposing your food to animals and other hygiene risks.

How to Know If Your Freezer Has Reached an Unsafe Temperature?

It’s a good idea to have a fridge freezer thermometer in both the fridge and the freezer. This won’t help you during a power cut, as you can’t open the door to check the temperature, but it will mean that as soon as the power cut is over, you can check the temperature.

If the temperature of the fridge hasn’t risen above 4oC, and the temperature of the freezer hasn’t risen above -18oC, then the food inside will still be safe to store and eat.

Alternatively, you could try this neat trick.

Freeze an open cup of water. When it’s frozen, lay a penny on top of the frozen water. If the water starts to defrost even a little, the penny will start to sink into the water, and then even if the water refreezes, you will know the temperature rose enough for the water to begin to thaw.

Can You Claim on Home Insurance If You Have to Throw Away all the Food in Your Freezer?

If the food in your fridge or freezer has to be disposed of as a result of a power cut, you may be able to claim it back on the contents section of your home insurance.

However, the cost of paying the excess will likely make it less than worth your while.

But if, for example, it’s the run-up to Christmas or you are preparing for an event and have stocked up on expensive food, then it would certainly be worth checking your policy.

Policies also usually cover all food in the fridge and freezer, including any additional appliances in a garage or outhouse.

Do you still have questions about dealing with a power cut? Then these FAQs might help you:

How Long Will Ice Cream Last in the Freezer Without Power?

Ice cream will last for around 12 hours in the freezer without power. It may soften a little and then refreeze, which can ruin the texture, but it will be safe to consume.

How Long Will Meat Last in the Freezer Without Power?

The moment the temperature in the freezer rises above -18oc, meat will become unsafe to eat. This can take as little as 8 hours depending on the seal of your freezer.

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