Power outages are bound to happen at some point. During the winter, ice and snow can cause power outages for days. Can food be stored outside in the snow?
Keep in mind that a full freezer of food usually will keep about two days, if the door is kept shut. A half-full freezer will stay cold enough about a day. If you find that the power will be out longer, you may need to resort to other methods to preserve your frozen food. If it’s short-term, the best thing is to keep the freezer closed.
It’s tempting to use our giant outdoor “walk-in freezer” to store food, but storing food outside is not recommended by the USDA due to potential variable temperatures, unsanitary outdoor conditions and/or disturbances by animals. There can be temperature fluctuations from the sun’s rays, which could thaw the food.
Depending on the outdoor temperature, you may be able to store the food in impermeable covered plastic containers in an unheated garage or other place where the food won’t be disturbed. Monitor the temperature and the state of the food.
- Never taste a food to determine its safety!
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
- The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.
- Obtain block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
- If the power has been out for several days, then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below, the food is safe.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, then check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out!