There are few disappointments in life like returning to a gallon of ice cream for a late-night, kid-free splurge and discovering that what was once blissfully smooth and creamy is now spiked with ice crystals, far less flavorful, and also crunchy. Cue the ice cream freezer burn meltdown. (Mine, not the ice cream’s.)
Frostbite on your ice cream is not the kitchen gods telling you that you’ve had enough for one day (although in my case, that’s usually true). It’s just food science. Manufacturers of ice cream and frozen yogurt work hard to get their ice crystals as tiny as possible for the smoothest, creamiest texture, but when ice cream warms and re-freezes, the crystals get bigger and less uniform, causing an unappetizing texture. And being exposed to air doesn’t help your frozen treat either.
But fear not, you don’t need to eat the entire container in one sitting to keep your frozen dessert frostbite free. A few simple steps can ensure that your fro-yo and ice cream stay creamy and fresh as long as you can make it last in the freezer.
1. Don’t let your ice cream warm up . . . even for scooping purposes.
We’ve all had this dilemma: Rock hard ice cream that demands superhuman forearm strength to scoop. For years I’ve been leaving my ice cream on the counter until it softens up, only to discover that it refreezes into a winter wonderland.
Instead, try this amazing hack at Buzzfeed, which involves slicing the ice cream (trust me on this one) and then heating the ice cream scoop for surprisingly easy serving. Genius.
2. Keep the ice cream at the back of the freezer.
I know those little pints fit perfectly in the door of your freezer, but resist the urge to store them there, even if it messes with your fridge feng shui. Items at the front of your freezer are going to be the hardest hit by temperature fluctuations caused by opening and closing the door (especially if you have little ones who take their time picking a flavor).
Storing frozen yogurt and ice cream at the back of your freezer will keep them as insulated as possible from drops in temperature.
3. Use a barrier.
You know how ice cream comes with a layer of plastic under the lid? This protects it from air exposure, but of course, this barrier gets thrown out after the first serving.
To keep it feelin’ like the first time, replace this barrier with a layer of cling wrap before putting it back in the freezer. This works best if it’s right against the surface of the ice cream so that it limits exposure to outside (and inside) air, protecting the ice cream from crystallization. This will also help make sure that the fats in the ice cream don’t absorb other flavors in the freezer, because no one wants their dessert tasting like the frozen fish you have stored up in there too.
4. Keep your freezer as cold as possible.
Frozen desserts are happiest when they’re stored below 0°F, so make sure you have a thermometer in your freezer. Again, this helps prevent even minimal melting that can change the texture of your ice cream. And bonus: It will make the rest of your freezer stash last longer too!
Follow these four steps, and you’ll be in for a big treat—rather than a crunchy disappointment—every time you open the freezer. Even if you just eat a spoonful a day. (And if that’s you, please tell me your secret.)