Common Kitchen Questions Answered

Family and Consumer Science specialist, Teresa C. Hunsaker has the solution to that and several other of your most commonly asked kitchen questions.


• Wash/scrape away as much of the food as possible.

• Fill the pot with water. Add 1 to 2 tsp. dishwashing liquid and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then cover the pot, turn off the heat and leave the pot to soak for 30 minutes.

• With a wooden spoon, scrape away as much of the burned food as possible. Rinse well.

• If burned areas still remain, cover them completely with a generous amount of baking soda. Drizzle in just enough water to create a thick paste, smearing the paste up the sides of the pot if needed. Set aside for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

• Without rinsing the pot, add 3 parts water to 1 part distilled vinegar to cover the burned food by at least 2 inches. Boil for 10 minutes and then leave overnight. Can also use about 2 TBS cream of tarter to a couple of cups of water.


Freezer failure can mean the loss of all or part of a large investment in food, time, and money.

It pays to know what to do if your equipment stops working because of mechanical problems, power failures or human error.

One key tool to note right up front is a Thermometer. Purchase a refrigerator/freezer thermometer and keep it in the freezer. If your freezer goes out for any reason and is off for some time, you can see how warm the freezer has become. Knowing the highest temperature that food has reached is the most important factor to determine whether or not the thawed food in your freezer is safe. Having a freezer thermometer also gives you more control over the quality of your frozen food.
Keep the freezer temperature at 0 degrees F.

When a freezer does fail to work, the first rule is to keep the freezer door closed. In a well-filled freezer, food will probably remain frozen for about two days if the door is kept closed.

When you first notice a problem with your freezer try to determine the cause. It might be
something simple like a blown fuse, a shortage in the electrical circuit or an accidental
disconnection, or the door left open. In any of these cases, restore normal operation as quickly as possible and check the food for thawing. In case of a power failure, check with the utility company to see how long it will be before power is restored. If your freezer has failed because of mechanical
problems, read the instruction book to see if there is something you can do to get it back into operation. If not, find out how soon the repairman can service your freezer.

How to Keep Your Food from Thawing

If your freezer is not likely to be operating again within a day, you can do one of several things.
First, check into moving your frozen food to a freezer that is working. You might have a friend or neighbor with space in his/her freezer for your food. You might also check into the possibility of moving your freezer’s contents to a local freezing plant, church freezer, school freezer, or even a meat locker. To move your food, put it in insulated boxes or between thick layers of newspapers and blankets—depending on how far you have to go.

If there is no space available in another freezer, use dry ice in your freezer to keep your food frozen. To locate a source of dry ice in your community, check the yellow pages under “dry ice” or “carbonic gas”, many grocery stores carry dry ice. Handle it quickly and always wear heavy gloves to prevent the ice from burning your hands. When you buy dry ice, have it cut into small enough sizes to use. Do not try to cut or chip it yourself. A 50-pound cake of dry ice is enough to protect solidly frozen food in a full
20-cubic foot freezer, for three to four days. A 25-pound cake should hold the temperature of a half-full, 10-cubic foot freezer below freezing for two to three days. Put heavy cardboard on top of packages of frozen food in each compartment of your freezer and put the dry ice on top of the cardboard. Close the freezer and do not open the freezer again until you need to replace the dry ice or the power comes back on or the freezer is working again.
You can provide extra insulation for your freezer by covering it with blankets or quilts. Putting packaging material or crumpled newspapers between the cabinet and the blankets will also help. Be sure, however, to fasten coverings away from the air vents on the outside of the freezer. The power may come on unexpectedly and ventilation will be needed. The harmless gas given off by the dry ice also needs to escape. Dry ice is carbon dioxide in its solid form. It evaporates rather than melts and leaves no liquid. You may notice an off odor caused by carbonic acid, which is formed by the dry ice and moisture in the freezer. It is harmless. Simply leave the freezer door open a few minutes to let it escape.

What to Do With Thawed Food

Some thawed foods can be re-frozen. However, the texture will not be as good. Other foods may
need to be discarded. Here are some guidelines:

Meat and Poultry: Re-freeze if the freezer temperature stays 40°F or below and if color and
odor are good. Check each package, and discard any if signs of spoilage such as an off color or
off odor are present. Discard any packages that are above 40°F (or at room temperature).

Vegetables: Re-freeze only if ice crystals are still present or if the freezer temperature is 40°F or
below. Discard any packages that show signs of spoilage or that have reached room temperature.

Fruits: Re-freeze if they show no signs of spoilage. Thawed fruits may be used in cooking or making jellies, jams, or preserves. Fruits survive thawing with the least damage to quality.

Shellfish and Cooked Foods: Re-freeze only if ice crystals are still present or the freezer is 40°F or below. If the temperature is above 40° F, throw these foods out.

Ice Cream: If partially thawed, throw it out. The texture of ice cream is not acceptable after
thawing. If its temperature rises above 40°F, it could be unsafe.

Creamed Foods, Puddings and Cream Pies: Re-freeze only if freezer temperature is 40°F or below. Discard if the temperature is above 40°F.

Breads, Nuts, Doughnuts, Cookies and Cakes: These foods re-freeze better than most. They can be safely re-frozen if they show no signs of mold growth.

What To Do To Plan Ahead

To be prepared in case your freezer stops, plan ahead. Find out where the nearest commercial or
institutional freezers are. Locate a source of dry ice. During the seasons when power failures are
frequent or if you know the power will be off, it is good insurance to run the freezer between –
10°F and -20°F. The colder food freezes, the more slowly it thaws.


Alcohol—amaretto: use ½ tsp almond extract in water for every ¼ cup called for; brandy: use in fruit juice in equal amounts called for; cognac: peach, pear, or apricot juice in equal amounts called for; red wine: cranberry juice, grape juice, tomato juice, even beef or vegetable broth can be used; sherry: apple, pineapple, and orange juices all make good sherry substitutions.

Buttermilk—1 cup—1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup.

Chocolate squares—to make 1 square, use 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening or vegetable oil.

Cocoa powder—for every ¼ cup needed use 1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate.

Corn syrup—1 cup–1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup honey OR 1 cup light treacle syrup.

Farmer’s cheese—8 ounces dry cottage cheese OR 8 ounces creamed cottage cheese, drained.

Sweetened condensed milk—1 can—1 1/8 c. instant nonfat dry milk, 2/3 c. sugar, 1/3 c. boiling water, 3 tbsp. butter. Beat all ingredients together. Process in blender until smooth.


1. Obtain and wash plastic, glass, fiberglass, or enamel-lined containers. Soft-drink bottles and food-grade drums work well. Plastic milk jugs are not recommended for long term storage of water.

2. Fill containers with water.

3. Add eight drops of household bleach (containing 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of water. This amount of bleach will kill microorganisms, but it won’t be harmful to you.

4. Seal the containers securely, label them and store them in a cool, dark place.


Center for Disease Control

University Extension Publications

Food Safety and Inspection Service

Do It Yourself website

If you have any questions, call the Family and Consumer Science Education Department at the Weber County USU Extension office at (801) 399-8203 or online at

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