Freezer Broken? How To Save Your Food

By Alex Stringfield

When you have a broken fridge freezer or chest freezer, it’s all too easy to go into panic mode and start throwing away its contents. But if you act fast and take some sensible precautions, you can rescue frozen food and get your freezer back up… Click To Tweet

When you have a broken fridge freezer or chest freezer, it’s all too easy to go into panic mode and start throwing away its contents. But if you act fast and take some sensible precautions, you can rescue frozen food and get your freezer back up and running – or replaced – with minimum fuss and expense. The key is to take a step back and prioritise, with these eight steps to food safety during a power outage or at other times your freezer stops working.

1. Work out what caused the broken fridge freezer

If you have a power cut, keep your freezer door closed for as long as possible to help retain the cold, then follow the steps below. If it’s not an obvious power cut, check the other electrics in the kitchen and, if they’re down too, check the fuse box to make sure it’s not just the kitchen.

If it’s not a power cut, then there’s something wrong with your freezer and it will need to be repaired or replaced. See if your freezer manual has any troubleshooting advice, and if not then check to see if you’re still in warranty (you’ll need your receipt). If you are – or if you’re only just out – it’s worth calling the manufacturer to see if they can repair or replace it.

If you’re out of warranty, you’ll need to find out: does your home contents insurance cover the fridge freezer? If the reason it stopped working is due to a fault with the appliance itself, it probably won’t, but in some cases, if there was a power outage affecting your entire area, for example, then it might. 

Try to get a repair company in to take a look as fast as possible. This will give you an indication as to why you have a broken chest freezer or broken fridge freezer, and will also allow you to let the insurers know what the repair or replacement cost will be so you can get the cost approved and the freezer repaired quickly.

If you’re out of warranty, you’ll need to find out: does your home contents insurance cover the fridge freezer? Click To Tweet

2. Get a food thermometer

If you don’t have a food thermometer, it’s worth getting one so you can tell what temperature your food has risen to, and whether it’s safe to eat. They only cost a few quid and are useful things to have in the kitchen anyway, especially if you ever eat poultry or pork.

The Food Standards Agency says a freezer should be -18°C.

If the temperature of your chilled food rises above 8°C, it can start to deteriorate quickly and even become unsafe to eat because that’s when most dangerous bacteria will start to thrive. 

But there are ways to rescue frozen food, even as the temperature rises.

3. Prioritise according to food type

Now it’s time to prioritise your food according to what’s going to go off first and keep it in your fridge, if it’s still working, or your neighbours’ if they’ll let you. For example, meat and fish are the most likely to go bad, while butter, eggs, vegetables and some drinks can safely be left unchilled.

Take a look at the use-by dates too, and see what you can use up. But don’t take any risks with food that’s on the edge, especially if you don’t know how long your freezer has been down, or if the food temperature has gone over 8°C.

But if it’s all still edible, it might be wise to cook all the meat, fish and anything else that’s borderline. You could make a big stew or have a barbecue to use it up before it goes off. 

4. See if your neighbours will help

Why not ask your neighbours if they have space in their fridge or freezer for your more expensive or perishable foods? If that’s possible, make it your first priority.

If the entire neighbourhood has sufference an extensive outage, this won’t work, of course, but in cases where it’s just your home or appliances that were affected, it can be a quick fix.

Don’t forget to give them a thank-you gift – perhaps of some of the food they’ve saved.

5. Add extra ice or ice packs

If you can, pop out to the supermarket or corner shop to buy ice. It’s worth buying a few ‘party bags’ and keeping them in the bath, so you can top up as they melt. While you’re there, pick up some sealable plastic sandwich bags or wrap if you don’t already have it, to protect everything from meltwater.

Then you can pack the freezer with extra ice to help keep the temperature down. It should stay cold for 24 to 48 hours – the less you open the door, and the more packed it is, the longer it stays cold. Remember, if the whole area has suffered a power cut everyone else will be doing the same thing, so get your ice early!

6. Use a cool box

While a broken chest freezer will keep food cold for a day or so, a broken fridge will warm up a lot faster, so if your fridge is also out of use, it’s a good idea to transfer perishable items to a cool box. Layer up the food with ice and with frozen food, making sure it’s in watertight packaging. Then every so often (not too often, because you want to avoid opening it), pour out the meltwater and top up the ice.

While a broken chest freezer will keep food cold for a day or so, a broken fridge will warm up a lot faster, so if your fridge is also out of use, it’s a good idea to transfer perishable items to a cool box. Click To Tweet

7. Repair or replace the freezer

However good your efforts to rescue frozen food, if this is more than a power cut, you’re going to need to repair or replace your freezer. 

If you’re still in warranty, have fridge-freezer insurance or have multiple appliance insurance, you’ll be able to get the repair paid for – assuming it’s worth doing. However, if it’s just a question of wear and tear, or it’s going to cost more than the appliance is worth, you’ll need to look at a new one.

This isn’t a choice to make on the spur of the moment, but you will want one as soon as possible, so when you’re searching, as well as price make sure you look at: external size, internal volume, energy efficiency, warranty length and delivery date, to make sure it arrives as soon as possible after purchase.

If you’re still in warranty, have fridge-freezer insurance or have multiple appliance insurance, you’ll be able to get the repair paid for – assuming it’s worth doing. Click To Tweet

8. Insure your new freezer

After all that, you’re definitely going to want to make sure you get multiple appliance insurance for your new purchase or newly repaired freezer so that the next time a breakdown happens – whether to your freezer or other appliance – you’ll be covered. FinEdge offers Multiple Appliance Insurance from as little as £1.31p/m, covering repair or replace on damage caused by mechanical or electrical breakdown or accidental damage. And you’ll be covered in moments if you buy online.