Freezing food can be an ally when you don’t have time to cook during the week or when you have leftovers. But sometimes you wonder, can I freeze it? how to freeze meat or for how long frozen meat is good. Let’s look at food freezing techniques and helpful tips to overcome all those questions.
8 Essential freezing tips
Before freezing food, keep in mind some tips so that the flavor, texture and nutrition of the food remains intact.
1. Choose wisely: Food items that you opt to freeze should be freezer friendly like fruits, vegetables, meat, milk products stews and soups freeze well. Try to avoid freezing fried food items, pasta and cooked grains and gelatin, sour cream etc.
2. Light Seasoning: Most of the seasoning changes its flavor after being frozen. Clove and pepper may taste differ and food items that include green pepper, imitation vanilla, some herbs and garlic get bitter in taste after freezing them. Paprika and onion may change in flavor too while seasoning of celery becomes stronger. Curries get mushy and off in taste as well. That’s why to avoid a large shift in flavor it’s recommended to use light seasoning and then you can add more seasoning while defrosting and reheating.
3. Chill Before Freezing : It is important to normalize the temperature of the item before it enters the freezer. So wait for 20-30 minutes before putting the hot or freshly cooked food into the freezer. Also, when food is ready to freeze, shift the normal temperature food into a wide and shallow plate. The reason you should avoid a hot plate to go inside the freezer is because it may thaw other items kept in the freezer.
4. Choose the right packaging: It is important to cover the food tight and flat with easily storable containers/ freezer bags, preferably the airtight ones. Watch out for the “freezer bags” and not the “storage” or “sandwich” bags. These bags should be airtight too, so that it repels moisture. Hence, plastic storage, heavy-quality aluminium foil, freezer paper, and even glass containers which can fit in the freezer are some of the options to pick from.
5. Wrap it tightly: To avoid or at least minimize bacterial presence in the packaging, please make sure that all the air is out as much as you can.
6. Portion Control: Try not to overload the bags with the food. You should pack the food in smaller quantities, as it results in faster freezing and thawing is easier too. Also, it prevents the bacteria growth in smaller portions in comparison with the larger chunks. When the packaging is complete, make the package to be stacked in flat shape. It would help the food to freeze quickly and evenly. Round shaped packing should be avoided as it will occupy more space and defrosting will take much time too.
7. Labeling is a must: Along with size and flexibility, bag tagging is quite useful for information when you want to defrost stored food. Therefore, you must put as much information as you can like, dish/ food name, quantity and date of freezing. Also, use the permanent marker for writing so that you can refer to it in coming months and it stays legible. That’s when labeling would let you know if the frozen item is safe to consume or not.
8. Keep required space between: You need to keep space among the stored items so that air circulation is happening efficiently and the food gets frozen faster, and after sometime when it’s frozen then you can stack them to create more space again.
Freezing meat, chicken and seafood
Different type of meat, different expiry date
It basically depends on the amount of fluid present on the meat. Ham and bacon can stay in the freezer for up to 1 month, cooked meat can even go in for up to 2 months, and ground meat may remain in the freezer for up to three months. Avoid the hotdogs, sliced and shaved meat to be frozen for more than 2 weeks and consume those on priority basis.
Chicken can remain fresh for up to 9 months
Sealing is needed and try to squeeze all the air out of the packaging, then further wrap them on with aluminum foil or use freezer paper to give it another layer before getting it to the freezer. This way you can provide a protection layer to the chicken against the freezer burn and quality and taste will remain close to original for a longer period of time.
Fish can be frozen for up to three months
Fishes with a lot of fat like salmon get stale really fast and may smell not so good, so you need to toss them every 2-3 weeks. On the other hand cooked and lean fishes can remain there up to 4-6 months; oysters will be there for 2-3 months. Shrimp and scallops may hang in there for as long as 6 months. Shellfish 2-3 months and lobsters at the most can be stored for 1 year.
Control the Smell: It’s pretty useful to wrap at least 2 times to cover the bad odor and help to keep your other stuff away from fish smell, all you need to do is to pack the fish tightly for the first time and then wrap it again.
A little tip: If you buy a whole meat then trim it by taking its bones and fat out of it. What it does is to remove excessive oil, gases and fluid of the meat/ fishes. It further keeps the freshness and quality of the food intact while it remains in freezer for a longer period. Maximum duration could be up to 12 months to freeze, provided you follow the process.
How to defrost
To thaw the meat and seafood, pull it out in your kitchen sink and fill the vessel with cold water and keep it under the tap to let the fresh water run over it to keep the thawing process slowly. Do not try defrosting it with hot water as it may cook some meat and disturb the original flavour and smell.
Most of the vegetables can easily freeze. All the veggies with high water content may not freeze well and will become limp and lose their flavor, when thawed.
Blanch veggies first
You need to blanch the veggies first, before getting them to the freezer because this way, it can retain flavor, color and texture as well. On the contrary some veggies may take more time however, in general 3-5 minutes of boiling is sufficient and then plunging into an ice bath will complete the process. Now after drying them they are ready to freeze by packing nicely.
Avoid Pepper and onion to blanch as they are the exception. Also, make all veggies wash before starting the process to blanch.
How long will it last
Though generally veggies can be stored and consumed with their original flavor even after 8-12 months, however, it’s better to eat them as soon as possible so that it would taste better sooner than later. You should better be throwing out the frozen tomatoes more than 2 months old.
How to defrost
You should bring ½ or 2/3 cup of boiling water per 16 ounces of frozen veggies and stir gently for about 5-7 minutes, until it tenders. In order to avoid mushiness, cook thawed veggies immediately.
First you have to wash and trim the fruit. This can prevent the fruits from turning brown and help them retain the freshness in the freezer. Get them washed in running water and rinse gently then cut them into pieces and then get them dried with a paper towel and finally pack them nicely in a sealed air tight container.
How long will it last
Mostly the fruits are stored in the freezer for 12 months however, citrus fruits have lesser life and can lose flavor and look after 4-5 months.
How to defrost
Put the portion of fruit you need in a bowl in the fridge. It will take 6 to 8 hours to defrost. Defrosted fruit has a mushy texture, so it is recommended to use it immediately. If you have frozen blueberries, you can use them to make sauces or muffins without having to thaw them.
Freezing soup & stew
Soup is prepared generally to be consumed immediately as an appetizer. However, if you wish to store it for a longer period of time, then you should avoid adding the following items; while preparing soup or stew and then later on add them back when you thaw it for immediate consumption.
Eggs, fresh herbs and cream pasta is not good to freeze, veggies go well with freezing however, just under cook them so that flavor and texture remains as original so that when you thaw it, the original taste comes out.
There may be instances when you want to freeze soup with all the ingredients; it is possible to maintain flavor and texture.
How to freeze soup & stew and keep the flavor
Use a metal container to pour the soup right after cooking from the stove. Make an ice tub, preferably in your kitchen sink by filling it with ice, leveling with the metal container of soup. If the quantity is large then divide it into smaller ones and put them all in the same ice tub before freezing. During the cooling process you should keep stirring the soup every 10-15 minutes so the cooling gets even and faster. To save manual efforts, you can place a fan over it.
Warm soup melts the ice faster. So when it happens, just drain the water and add more ice to the process for faster cooling and avoid bacteria to get in. It is not advisable to use cold water instead of an ice tub. By the help of a food thermometer you can check the temperature and as soon as it hits 4*C (40*F), it’s ready for the freezer.
A little tip: A freezable, zip-lock plastic bag is good for storing soup and stew in the freezer. While using a plastic container you need to leave at least ½ Inch empty from the lid to allow the soup expansion as it gets frozen. Also freeze burn can be avoided too.
How long will it last
Although it is safe to store soups for up to six months, after two months it will begin to lose flavor.
How to defrost
Use microwave for thawing, put the soup in the microwave and make sure that the container is microwave safe, keep the timer to defrost for a minute or two depending on the quantity of soup. Avoid over run of timer as it may burn the soup and ruin the taste.
Freezing baked goods
Sometimes we make baked items in greater quantity and would like to store them to consume for a longer period of time. Mostly cookies or other bakery items like, cake, bread, pizza and cheese rolls etc. can freeze.
All you need is an airtight container to keep the baked item and put freezer paper or aluminum foil beneath the baked items before it goes to the freezer. Avoid freezing the baked goods for the second time, which means thaw the portion that you are going to consume the same day. Also, it is better to freeze goods when they are a little warm.
How long will it last
There is a great range of duration for different types of baked items as far as the freezing goes. Like sponge cake can be good for around 4 months, pastries for 6 months, bread for 8 months, cookies and gingerbread for 4-5 months, cheese cake, pizza and fruit tarts for up to 3 months and pound cake for up to 6 months.
How to defrost
You can simply pull out the container from the freezer and keep it at room temperature for 30-40 minutes and then to add the crispiness put them in an oven for 5 minutes.
Freezing cooked Meals
There are plenty of meals that freeze well like, spaghetti and meatballs, butter and chocolate chip cookies, turkey and chicken stock, raw meat, vegetable lasagna, umami broth, butter pie dough, roasted tomato soup and pancakes. Sausages made for breakfast, sloppy meat patty burger, chicken burritos, muffins and sandwiches, roasted meat and veggies etc.
There are more to come like apple sauce, bacon, banana, butter, cheese, chocolate, cream cheese and sour cream, eggs, ginger, grapes, berries, herbs, hummus, citrus, milk, nuts, rice and tomato paste etc.
You can freeze dairy products, meat, seafood and poultry items, veggies and herbs, fruits, nuts and grains, baked goods and uncooked dough.
Do Not Freeze
Some food can’t freeze well because of its texture and composition. That’s why you should avoid freezing food that can’t be properly defrosted later.
Cakes with frosting are suggested not to defrost because of the creamy texture and whipped cream becomes soft and sluggish in the freezer. Custards and creamy pie often turn watery in the freezer, sliced fruits with high water content, like citrus fruit, melons and cucumbers etc. Cooked egg white, gelatin, lettuce, mayonnaise, fully cooked pasta and rice, cream based soups and mayo based salads etc.
A little tip: Sauces and gravy may fall apart during freeze.
In the end I would like to say, that you are well aware about the food freezing techniques, so plan ahead accordingly while you buy and cook food for any gathering of few people. It will result in saving time, money and efforts. Also, avoid freezing food which is not suitable to freeze, so there is no disappointment when you pull it out to thaw.