Are Plastic Containers Safe for Freezing Food?

Last updated:

We have been using plastic countless times in our day-to-day life. Plastics are go-to materials that have incredible versatile uses in commercial as well as domestic areas. But it’s a common concern among people whether it is safe to freeze food using a plastic container? Or is there a specific way to keep frozen food in plastic containers? Or what kind of plastics can you consider for freezing food? To find answers, keep reading this post! 

Are plastic containers safe for freezing food?

Yes, there are a number of plastic containers specifically made for food storage in the freezer. The most suitable ones are rigid plastic containers as they make it easier to remove frozen food. These containers are reusable. Hence you can clean them thoroughly before you put food items into it next time, making it a hygienic option to store food. 

Are Plastic Containers Safe FOR FREEZING FOOD

However, not every plastic-type is suitable for storing food items; in fact, it might make the food poisonous. Hence, it is crucial to learn about unsafe and safe plastics. 

Plastic containers that are unsafe for freezing food

The plastic types in this category are quite hazardous and result in chronic diseases. Here is the list of unsafe plastics for freezing food: 

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

The plastic material is highly used for making cling wraps and different types of plastic containers. PolyVinyl chloride tends to release dioxins that come in the category of human carcinogens. Additionally, it comprises phthalates leading to poor hormonal functions, which may result in hormonal damage. 

Polystyrene (PS)

The plastic material is used in making cartons, cups, and take-out containers. You must be familiar with the famous white foam cup, which is a product made of polystyrene plastic. Using it for storage or freezing food items can result in many health conditions. This is so because it releases toxic chemicals and is carcinogenic. 

Polycarbonate (PC)

Generally, this plastic material is utilized for making baby bottles and water cooler bottles—the contents of polycarbonate release bisphenol-A, which is known for being destructive for hormonal functionalities. 

Plastic containers that are safe for freezing food

A few plastic materials are considered safe for storage and freezing of food items. Some of them include:

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET Or PETE)

It is a commonly used plastic container for storing food in households. It can store different kinds of food items as well as beverages like juice, water, mayonnaise, and many more. These containers are reusable once you clean them with warm water and soap. However, some research shows that if you wash PET bottles frequently, it might release plastic toxins such as carcinogenic chemicals, which can enter into frozen food or beverages. Hence you should discard the container if you notice cracks or cloudiness. 

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

It is one of the safest plastics for storing food and water. Usually, you will find products like water bottles and milk jugs made by HDPE. The presence of high-density polyethylene does not release any kind of carcinogenic chemicals or toxins into frozen food or water. Moreover, recycling companies readily accept this material; hence it is also eco-friendly.

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Plastic materials do not contaminate food items with any chemicals, but recycling companies still do not accept them on a large scale. Aside from blow-molded food containers, you will find the material being used in making plastic cling wrap, squeezable bottles, and sealable sandwich bags. 

Polypropylene (PP)

The plastic-type does not cause toxins to get into water or food; however, not all recycling companies accept polypropylene. Primarily, it is used to make yogurt containers and many other reusable plastic containers for snacks.

Bio-Plastic

In general, the plastic material is used for making picnic plates, utensils, and plastic cups. The base material for its creation comes from renewable sources like sugarcane, corn, potatoes, and other starchy foods. Most households use bio-plastic containers to store leftover food items. 

How long can you keep frozen foods in plastic containers?

You cannot freeze foods in plastic containers for too long. In fact, there are different timestamps suitable for different food items in case you are freezing them. Let us look into recommended timetable by FDA to maintain the quality of frozen food items:

  • Sausage and Bacon and: 1-2 months
  • Casseroles: 2-3 months
  • Stews and soups: 2 months
  • Entrees and Frozen dinners: 3-4 months
  • Uncooked roasts: 4-12 months
  • Raw ground meat: 3-4 months
  • Raw whole poultry: 12 months
  • Raw poultry parts: 9 months
  • Cooked poultry: 4 months

You can also check the quality by smelling the food after defrosting it. If it smells differently, then consider discarding it right away. But, if the appearance of the food is not as before but is somewhat acceptable, you can have it with stews for soups. In case you notice freezer burn, then you can simply cut out the burned portions. For the raw food items, first, cook them if you find the texture and taste of it acceptable, then you can eat them. 

Is it safe to freeze food in a plastic container?

In the long run, no! We looked into safe and unsafe plastics and which ones are effectively used for freezing food. Though you can use plastic containers for a while, it tends to exert toxins into the foods with frequent washing. Plastics have numerous industrial and domestic uses but do not consider them for cooking, reheating, freezing, or storing food ( using a container for a few days is fine).

So, if you want to freeze some foods, using aluminum foil would be safer.

How to freeze food using a plastic container? 

If you decide to freeze foods in a plastic container, then wrapping and storing it properly will keep your food as you want, even after days. Here are a few food freezing rules that you must follow: 

  • Ensure you remove as much air from the plastic container as possible while putting your food into them. Use the freezer-safe container of a size that nearly fits the quantity of meal you are freezing. 
  • You need to wrap cooked foods and meat tightly with aluminum foil for more safety before putting them inside a plastic container. Note that it is not ideal for freezing meat in the same packaging from the store. Such packaging is generally done with plastic on Styrofoam trays which can not stand against freezer temperatures. 
  • To eradicate bacterial growth, ensure that you freeze food as quickly as possible. For this, it is ideal to use small plastic containers that do not have a capacity of more than four quarts. It is much better if the food content is lower than 3 inches thick inside the container. 
  • You need to cool your hot meals quickly before you freeze them. Place the hot food pan over a bigger container that is filled with ice water or ice cubes. Steer frequently to maintain the cold circulating. In case you are cooling multiple hot foods, such as a big saucepan of chili or stew, then you can part it into small and shallow containers. 
  • Even if you are freezing your foods for a couple of weeks, it is a good practice to label and date freezer containers. 
  • It is helpful to place food at the coldest portion of your freezer until the food gets frozen completely. 
  • It would be better to use the frozen foods within the period of 2 to 3 months. 
  • When you are planning to freeze dishes that contain dairy items, remember that you can freeze the milk, but it might separate at the time of thawing. 
  • In the case of semi-hard and hard cheese, you can freeze them in 8 and 16-ounce plastic-wrapped blocks. Then place these blocks in a plastic freezer container. The cheese blocks will have an exact flavor when you thaw them. However, they might get a little crumbly, so you can use them to enhance the taste of cooked dishes. 

The types of cheese that do not do well with freezing are cottage cheese and cream cheese, while blue cheese items tend to get crumbly. 

How to thaw frozen food in a plastic container?

Firstly put the frozen food in a watertight plastic container, then submerge it into the cold water. Ensure you are changing the water within every 30 minutes, then immediately cook it once thawed. 

FAQs

How to know if a plastic container is freezer safe?

Look for snowflake symbols on your plastic container. It is a sign that the container is safe for putting into the freezer. 

Can I freeze food in Rubbermaid containers?

Yes, Rubbermaid containers are safe to freeze foods and are also stackable, allowing the freezer to be more spacious. However, using Rubbermaid with heavy-duty wraps would be ideal for long-term storage. 

Conclusion

More people are getting into the habit of freezing food items they don’t want to cook immediately or finish while eating. Luckily, we have high-quality plastic containers that can keep frozen food safe. However, we advise you not to use the same container for longer, especially if you are washing it frequently.