I think it is safe to say that we all love our freezers around here. We love filling them with convenient freezer meals and all of those great deals we score when we’re shopping. But who among us really gets excited when we notice that thick layer of ice crystals on the freezer wall, and we start to wonder what forgotten foods are lurking down in the very bottom. And then we realize it is time to defrost the freezer!
Don’t panic! We will walk you through 5 easy steps to defrost a chest freezer.
But first, let me answer two burning questions that I know you want to ask.
Why do I need to defrost my freezer?
Some freezers are designed to defrost automatically, such as the freezer above your refrigerator and many upright models. But almost every chest freezer must be manually defrosted periodically. If not your appliance will not function at maximum efficiency, meaning it takes more energy (and money) to keep your meals frozen. It also means that your meals will lose quality faster, and you may even start to run out of space if the ice gets too thick.
How often do I need to defrost my freezer?
At least once a year or whenever the ice accumulates to 1/4 inch on a large portion of the freezer. (Source)
How long is defrosting going to take?
It depends on the particular model you own (check your owners manual for specifics), but the whole process from start to finish will probably take about a day to complete. Most of this time is just waiting though, so you can do other things.
Step 1: Reduce Your Inventory
Reducing inventory is difficult for the committed freezer cook. I mean, what will you eat for dinner if the freezer is empty? Don’t worry, you won’t have to get rid of everything. But depending on how big your stash is, you will want to start planning your inventory reduction a week or two before you plan the big thaw. Here are some ways to reduce the amount of food you need to store while defrosting.
Plan your thaw for the end of your OAMC cycle.
The easiest way to ensure low inventory is to defrost before you freezer cook instead of after. Plan for a time in the month when you are typically low on freezer meals because cooking day is coming up. You may also find items that you can thaw and incorporate into your next freezer cooking day!
Plan the meals from your stash into your meal plan for the week (you do that anyway, right?) Throw an ice cream party. Make a big batch of veggie soup with all of the random half bags of frozen veggies.
Give meals away.
If you really have more food than you can eat before your big thaw, find someone who needs a meal and gift them a few.
Throw it away.
Any foods that are freezer burned or past their optimal “eat by” date can simply be tossed. We all cringe to throw out food, but sometimes it is necessary. And a clean, organized freezer should help reduce waste in the future. If you are wondering how long food lasts in the freezer, check out this simple guide.
Step 2: Relocate Your Inventory
Make room in your refrigerator freezer.
Follow Step 1 for your refrigerator freezer also. You will have items that you need to store during the thaw, so make sure you have space before you start moving things around.
Store more valuable items safely.
Use your refrigerator freezer or check with a neighbor to see if you can borrow some freezer space for valuable items, for example, your stash of discount chicken breast or the half of a cow you have been storing.
Put any remaining items in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice.
Any other low cost items can be stored temporarily this way. It is unlikely you will lose them, but if you do, no big loss.
Step 3: Defrost
First, check your owners manual!
Each freezer and manufacturer is a little bit different, so take a few minutes to look over the recommendations for your specific model.
Open the doors.
Basically, once the freezer is empty, you need to turn it off and open up the doors until all of the ice is melted. For some models you can use warm or boiling water or fans to help speed up the process. Be sure to make a plan for draining the water. Some have a convenient hose attached while others may need to be moved outside to thaw. Again, check for the best way to remove the melted ice from your particular model.
Clean and dry.
When the freezer is thawed, take some warm, soapy water and wash down the sides and the bottom. You can use dish soap and add a little baking soda if you are dealing with odors. Once you are done, towel dry until all of the moisture is gone so that ice doesn’t form again.
Step 4: Chill
Turn the freezer back on and close the lid once it is fully dry. Most freezers recommend you leave them on for 6-8 hours before adding frozen items. Again, check the specs for your model.
Step 5: Organize and Restock!
Return remaining items to your freezer.
As you return your remaining items to the freezer, use this opportunity to get organized. Use our handy Freezer Inventory Worksheet to list these items and mark them with an appropriate “use by” date. You will want to use up these items first since they are the oldest and moving them from freezer to freezer can decrease quality more quickly. As you return the items, make sure that you wipe off any frost or moisture before you place them in the freezer as this will help keep ice from forming again.
Time to plan another cooking day to fill ‘er back up!