How does the European “four star” freezer system work?

Freezers are designed to try to store foods for longer periods of time – allowing them to be ready to eat when you are ready to eat them while still preventing spoilage and any chance of food borne illness. This makes freezers a great place to keep any food that is likely to spoil or taste poor over time so that it is ready to eat when you are ready to eat it.

However, though freezing temperatures keep foods frozen, regardless of temperature, certain temperatures still make the foods prone to spoiling and damage, which is why a lot of freezers use a rating system to show what type of temperature they meet.

Shop around, and take a look at some of my other articles on this site about good outdoor refrigerators:

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The Star Rating System for Freezers

Freezers – especially those in Europe – often go by a star rating system that corresponds to their available temperatures. The scale goes as follows:

  • * – Corresponds to a temperature of -6° C, which keeps food for approximately 1 week max.
  • ** – Corresponds to a temperature of -12° C, which keeps food for approximately 1 month max
  • *** – Corresponds to a temperature of -18° C, which keeps food for approximately 3 months max
  • **** – Corresponds to a temperature of -18° C, which keeps food for approximately 12 months max

The difference between 3 stars and 4 has to do with the cooling mechanism and its ability to adjust for heat from outside sources. Four stars can quickly adjust temperatures while three stars may not be able to, thus implying the food may easily become old.

Most freezers these days are four stars, since this allows food to last for an essentially unlimited amount of time.

Understanding the 4 Star System

Note that the 4 star freezers have a “max” of 12 months, but food inside of the freezer may not be able to stay good for the full 12 months, and the reality is that some foods can last longer. Pork, for instance, lasts no longer than 6, while carrots can last as long as 18 months. Meats require careful oversight, so assume that the longer it is in the freezer, the worse it becomes.

Eating Older Food

If you are keeping food in a 4 star freezer, and you food is longer than its “maximum” (for example, keeping pork in the freezer for more than 6 months), you can still eat it. Bacteria cannot grow in that cold an environment, and the food is still 100% healthy provided it was taken care of while in the freezer and is cooked correctly when you are ready to eat it.

But after 6 months, the food itself starts to break down from freezer damage. So after 6 months, the pork is going to taste considerably worse, and possibly not cook well, despite being completely safe.

Food that is kept in freezers under 18 degrees Celsius, however, do run the risk of spoiling. Though most foods will not spoil as long as they are kept at frozen temperatures, the warmer the food, the more your risk, so try to make sure your freezer can reach the proper cold temperatures for safe, long term storage.

Also check out the best outdoor kitchen refrigerators of 2021!

Put your questions or suggestions in the comments below, so we can all benefit from each other’s knowledge.

Happy Outdoor Living! Thanks for reading.

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