During our occasional Back to Basics series we’ve looked at simple, easy, and cost-saving homemaking skills like making bread, jams, and pantry items, starting a garden, and creating simple cards and pillows.
Today’s topic is the result of a reader asking how I defrost my freezer when I mentioned that I like to use menu planning in April and May to use up the previous year’s produce so I can defrost the freezer before starting to add new produce.
But before showing how to defrost a freezer, I should maybe start with why to defrost. Although to be honest, I hate to defrost. Really. So much so that when our old freezer died a number of years ago I was determined to get a frost-free one so I wouldn’t have to deal with defrosting.
Why a Regular Freezer is Better Than a Frost-Free Freezer
After some research, and talking with an appliance repairman, I learned that for long-term storage (and some things last for a year or more…), frost-free freezers are not recommended because:
- The fan that runs to keep the frost away causes serious freezer burn.
- There are added electrical costs from a fan running most of the time.
Added electrical costs, more damage to the food, plus the increase cost up front of frost-free freezers? Great. I (reluctantly) bit the bullet and we bought another freezer that grows frost.
The frost that accumulates not only takes away room, it also makes the freezer less efficient, so they do need to be defrosted regularly. I think the recommendation is yearly, but to be honest (remember I hate this job…) I only do it every couple of years because the ice is not too thick after a year.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
How to Defrost a Freezer
TIP: try to pick a warm day to defrost because there’s no getting around the fact that you will get cold standing in front of a freezer and scraping ice. Of course it can be done on a cool day, but it will be more pleasant on a warm day.
The first thing to do is to unplug the freezer. If the plug is hard to reach and your freezer is too heavy to move you can turn the breaker off that runs the freezer, but be aware of other things that may go off as well.
We went a day without our main phone. Good thing for cell phones.
Step 2: Remove the food
Find places for the frozen food that is in the freezer, like coolers, fridge-freezer, or even neighbors freezers (another tip: try to time the defrosting when you don’t have as much in the freezer, like right after winter, before the garden starts producing). My 18-cubic foot freezer took about 6 hours to defrost, so holding food in coolers was sufficient for the things I wanted to keep frozen (I just let items like bread defrost and refreeze and didn’t notice a problem with this).
After emptying the freezer, it was easy to see that the top shelves have pretty thick layers- about 3 inches at the thickest, even though the bottom shelves had less. Definitely in need of defrosting.
Step 3: Find the hose & plug
Determine if your freezer has a hose underneath and a plug in the bottom shelf. Once the ice has started melting and the water accumulates in the bottom, you can then unplug the hole and the water will run out of the hose.
Hopefully into a container you’ve put there.
Place old towels on the floor and large roasting pans on the shelves to catch ice chunks and water as the ice melts. (And yes, I did eventually put a shallow pan down with the hose in it to catch the water when it defrosted more – this picture above was at the beginning of the process).
Then leave and just let the ice melt. Check on it occasionally, dumping water out of the containers and replacing towels as needed. But mostly it’s okay to let it work on its own. I’ve tried using a hair dryer in the past to try to speed up the process, but it just takes more of my time and I’m not sure it went any faster.
Step 5: Help it along
As the shelves defrost, you can help the process along by using a putty knife to scrape the loosened ice off in chunks.
In order not to have to deal with as much water, throw the ice into the yard (or nearby sink) to melt.
After your freezer is completely defrosted (mine took about 6 hours with minimal hands-on time), use a towel to wipe down all the surfaces before turning the freezer back on. You don’t want a surface of ice to form right away…not after all this work.
Then try to wait at least an hour before reloading the freezer with the food from the coolers. The food should still be mostly frozen, so an hour is usually sufficient to cool it enough to keep them frozen.
The freezer might not be cool enough for things like ice cream, though, so give these things a few more hours. Hopefully there’s room in your over-the-fridge freezer. If not, it’s always a good excuse for ice cream sundaes.
But really, who needs excuses for ice cream sundaes? Not I.
Do you have any other tips for defrosting that you use and like?