This Is Why People Leave a Quarter in a Cup of Frozen Water in the Freezer

Updated: Jan. 09, 2023

It's particularly helpful if you're taking a long trip or expecting severe storms.

Freezers can be an absolute lifesaver. It’s great in theory to cook every night, but that’s not always feasible. And if you’re raising a large family, it can be downright impossible! That’s why relying on a stash of freezer meals is so fantastic.

But how can we be sure our freezer is always doing its job? Especially when we’ve been away on a trip and are wondering if all that frozen food is still good. There’s a trick that everyone on the internet seems to love for this—and all you need is a quarter.

What Is the Frozen Quarter Trick?

Whether you’ve got a freezer attached to your fridge or a chest freezer out in your garage, this trick will work. First, grab a freezer-safe cup and fill it with water. Place that cup in the freezer and wait until it’s fully frozen. Then, place a quarter on top of the ice. That’s it!

Why Do People Put a Quarter in the Freezer?

It’s rumored that the quarter can help you judge whether or not the freezer has lost power. This is great info to know after taking a long trip with family—or if you’ve had to evacuate because of a hurricane or other storm.

According to a handful of viral posts, if you check the cup and the quarter is still at the top, the freezer has not lost power and your food should be safe. But if the quarter is somewhere in the middle of the ice or all the way at the bottom of the cup, you should throw your food out. That means the freezer has thawed completely and any food should not be consumed.

Here’s how to tell if your freezer is set to the correct temperature.

The Best Way to Know If Your Food Is Safe

Yes, this trick might give you a hint about whether your freezer lost power, but it’s not the best indicator of whether the food is still safe to eat. There are still precautions you should take during and after a power outage.

According to the CDC, a full freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half-full) without power if you don’t open the door. If you have any perishable foods in your freezer that have been completely thawed, it’s best to throw them away. That includes fruits and vegetables and any kind of meat, like ground beef. If any of your food has an unusual odor, color or texture, throw it out.

However, if any food stills feels as cold as it would in the refrigerator or still contains ice crystals, you may refreeze or consume the food as normal.

If you have thawed more meat than needed, find out if it’s safe to refreeze meat.