The freezer is one of my best friends if you’re a regular reader of Apronese. I use it to store leftover ingredients, leftover portions of cooked meals, and to stock up on sale items like cheese and meat, and it is my favorite thing to do with my freezer.
But I have also come to realize that there is also a great deal of grey area when it comes to freezing food.
Unlike other foods, frozen foods do not freeze well and there is no definitive cut off date for when frozen foods become bad or good again. To put it another way, I wanted to write you a tutorial about the way I freeze leftovers so that you could get started on experimenting with freezing food for yourself.
It is a matter of experimenting to find out which method yields the results you’re happy with, and how to balance the effort and savings in your own kitchen. Experimentation will be necessary in order to find out which methods produce results that you’re satisfied with.
There are several companies and websites you can go to for information about freezing food, but I will provide you with some links to reputable resources that I have found valuable to get information about freezing food, and I’ll also show you the methods I use to freeze leftover meals and ingredients, along with a handy little printable chart that I created to keep track of my leftovers in the freezer.
Would you like to get started with Apronese?
Guidelines for Safety
Among the most comprehensive pieces of information I have come across regarding freezing food is compiled by the Federal Food Service and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
The researchers have done a lot more research than I have, so be sure to take the time to read their charts and FAQs since they’ve put together the information in a way that is clear and concise.
So, read them first or bookmark them for later use.
- Freezing and Food Safety FAQs
- General Freezing Information
- Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Times (chart)
What Freezes Well?
This is the question of the hour, and unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to it. When food is frozen and thawed, it undergoes many different changes, and some people are more sensitive than others to these changes than others.
The texture, appearance, and taste of food that is stored in the freezer can all be changed due to a combination of factors including ice crystals, dehydration (known as freezer burn), and enzymes.
The appearance of these changes and how much they bother you is what makes freezing such a subjective process and will require that you experiment with what does and does not freeze well in your area. Below are some general lists of what I think freezes well in my area.
Do Freeze: The preparation of soups, stews, casseroles, saucy rice and pasta dishes, raw meats and seafood, broth, bread, cookies, baked goods, tortillas, cheeses (grated or in the form of blocks), tomato paste, pesto, buttermilk, butter, ginger, beans, rice, pasta, fresh fruit for smoothies or baking, vegetables for soups and stews, and buttermilk are among the many items that can be prepared by the cook.
Do Not Freeze: Sauces made with cream, custards, foods that contain a high amount of water (such as lettuce, cucumber or tomato), sour cream, mayonnaise, fried foods, and foods containing gelatin are all examples of these foods.
Eggs A raw egg can be frozen if it is taken out of its shell, however cooked eggs tend to seep water when reheated, and they tend to get overcooked. This is an item that rests comfortably in the middle. Although I have frozen quiches and other egg dishes with success, I suspect not everyone would be as satisfied with the results as I was with the results.
How to Freeze Leftover Food
When I freeze food, I have the goal of avoiding freezer burn, reheating it in the portions I need, and ensuring it is easily identifiable in a sea of frozen foods when it comes to identification.
In my experience when I freeze food, I have to ask myself the following questions: How can I package the food so that it will not be exposed to air for as long as possible. In what portion am I likely to use or consume of this food in the future? Is it labeled?
Step 1: Portion
In the beginning, I start with portioning because that is what happens before the food is wrapped up. I tend to freeze the meat pieces individually, so that I can thaw them individually, depending on how much I need to do.
For leftover cooked meals, I freeze them into individual serving-sized containers, which allow them to be reheated one meal at a time (just like a homemade TV dinner) for dinner.
I usually freeze cooked beans, rice, or pasta in portions of 2 cups (or about the amount of a single can of beans) because that is usually about how much I will use in a recipe.
For tomato paste, pesto, or buttermilk, portioning is an important part of preserving quality and avoiding food safety risks by thawing all your frozen ingredients when only a small amount is required. Repeated thawing and refreezing drastically decreases quality and creates many more opportunities for food safety concerns.
Step 2: Package Properly
It is important to reduce air exposure in order to prevent freezer burn and maintain the food’s appearance and quality.
You should use heavy duty, freezer-grade products to prevent freezer burn. Regular plastic wrap and original food packaging may be air permeable, so they will not protect you from dehydration effectively.
Therefore, I choose quart and gallon freezer bags and reusable Ziploc containers (other brands make similar freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe containers as well).
Ziploc Containers: In order to store leftover portions of soups, stews, and casseroles, I use Ziploc hard sided containers. I like the hard sided Ziploc containers for pre-portioned meals because they do not require washing dishes and can go straight from the freezer to the microwave without being on the lookout for dishwashing liquids.
Freezer Bags:In my opinion, freezer bags are the best because they allow me to squeeze out excess air from around the food, which is my favorite part of it.
In order to reduce air flow around irregular-shaped foods, I often wrap them in an extra layer of plastic within the freezer bag (or rewrap them in the original packaging and place inside the freezer bag), just to ensure that the food gets a better air circulation.
Step 3: Label and Date
It is vital that you label and date the food before you eat it. Most freezer bags come with a blank area that can be scribbled in with a Sharpie, but you can also use a masking tape to do the same.
As you may have noticed, masking tape can be found in almost every commercial kitchen, where it is imperative that every food item be labeled and dated.
Guides for Freezing Specific Foods:
- How to Freeze Tomato Paste
- How to Freeze Rice
- How to Freeze Green Onions
- How to Divide and Freeze Chicken
- How to Freeze Buttermilk
- How to Freeze Whole Citrus
Tips for Freezer Success
- In order to ensure that the ice crystals are smaller and less likely to damage the food’s texture, make sure the food is completely chilled before freezing in the refrigerator.
- The best way to prevent clumping occurs when you freeze small items (like meatballs, cookie dough, or fruit pieces) spread out on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag once solid.
- The freezer should have sufficient room in order for air to flow. By doing so, the freezer will keep its temperature at the right level.
- The food you are preparing should be labelled and dated.
- As much as possible, frozen foods should be divided into smaller portions. This will enable them to freeze faster, which will reduce the need for more defrosting than necessary.
- “Review” your freezer on a regular basis to ensure that you are on top of what you have on hand.
Free Downloadable Freezer Chart
The chart I made for you can be used to track the leftovers you’ve frozen so that you know where they are. Having this chart on hand will help you remember all the delicious food you have ready and waiting at home (a take-out deterrent!) and help you eat your leftovers in a timely manner.
It will also act as a reminder of all the tasty food you have in your house that is ready and waiting to be eaten.
Simply write down the name of the recipe and the date of freezering the portion on this chart, and then draw a circle or square around the number of portions you have frozen.
Once you have finished eating a portion, you just cross one portion off of the chart. With this handy visual guide you will be able to see all your frozen meals in a matter of seconds without needing to dig through the freezer or get numb fingers.
How to Thaw Frozen Food
The procedure for gradual thawing, as with freezing, is often dependent on the food. The safest way to rapidly thaw food is to simply plan ahead and transfer the food to the refrigerator one day in advance.
This will keep the food at a safe temperature (below 40oF), but still allow the food to slowly thaw.
The best way to reheat leftovers of cooked food (such as soups, stews, rice or pasta dishes) is by simply reheating them in the microwave straight from the freezer, without the need to thaw the food first.
When baked goods are normally stored at room temperature, they can be thawed at room temperature even though they are usually stored frozen. Bread, especially the light, airy variety, thaws very quickly at room temperature, or can be put straight in the toaster from the freezer.
It is easy to reheat frozen soups, sauces, or other liquid substances in sauce pots by simply cutting the freezer bag away from the frozen block and placing it in a sauce pot. Heat the liquid over low heat with the lid on (to prevent dehydration), while stirring frequently for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Here is more comprehensive information on thawing frozen foods:
- 5 Ways to Safely Thaw Frozen Foods
- Rã đông và chuẩn bị thực phẩm để phục vụ
It is well worth learning how to freeze leftovers and ingredients to save you a great deal of money (and hard work) as well as to get comfortable with it.
However, it is not an easy process to learn. It is almost always better to throw away that questionable food rather than pay a medical bill. In almost all cases, you will save more money from having to pay a medical bill than by not throwing away the food in the first place.
Those of you who find online resources useful might be able to share your favorite foods and ingredients to freeze in the comments below, as well as any helpful internet resources you use.
Freezing food is the best way to store food, the way Apronese recommends to everyone, not the best way, but it is the most convenient and useful for you. Comment and share how to freeze your food for everyone to refer to.
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