Every once in awhile, I get the nifty idea to make up a bunch of food and freeze it for easy preparation later. I’ve used The Big Cook with great success and have also done my own, independent freezing research. I learned a few things along the way that might have spared me wasted food, disappointment, or unpleasant texture surprises. In recognition that fall is here and that fall-type foods (e.g. soups or stews) freeze very well indeed, I’ve compiled the list of tips I wish I had seen before I started experimenting.
I’ve broken these down into a few sections to make scanning easier.
The “Do Not Freeze” Foods
- Eggs in their shells – this includes raw eggs and hard-boiled eggs
- Mayonnaise – frozen on its own, mayonnaise becomes a mess
- Lettuce and leafy greens – most types are just too delicate to hold up well
- Cream/cream sauces – the parts separate and look curdled
- Canned goods – trust me, don’t put the metal can of beans from the grocery in there
Successful Freezing Tips
- Use thick freezer bags to store frozen food, not the thin stuff in which you might stuff a sandwich. If in doubt, use more wrapping (foil, plastic wrap, Ziplocks, et cetera).
- Let your hot foods cool before freezing them. However, do not allow them to sit for more than 30 minutes at room temperature before placing them in the freezer.
- Try to limit contact with air your items receive, unless you’re freezing soups or liquids that expand. The greater the exposure of your items to air, the more drying the process will become. If you’re freezing something in a casserole dish or plastic container and will have lots of extra room, try crumpling up some butcher, wax, or parchment to fill the space.
- Do not use aluminum (including aluminum foil) to freeze tomato-based items.
- Make sure all your freezer packages have a bit of space to allow the air to circulate between them. This keeps the temperature consistently cold and allows the food to freeze more quickly, thus reducing the size of ice crystals in your food.
- Precooked meats (pot roast, ham, et cetera) freeze best when cut into 3-inch slices.
- The freezer should stay consistently at or below 0-degrees Fahrenheit to avoid constant thawing and refreezing.
- Make the portions you freeze on the smaller size. A 10 lb. roast frozen in one chunk will not freeze as well as 10 one lb. packages.
- In most cases, thawing and refreezing raw foods (chicken, veggies, fruit) a few times does not affect quality, so long as the refreezing process is fast. Items like ice cream and bread dough, however, can see a sharp decline in quality if allowed to thaw before refreezing.
- Defrost perishable items safely in the refrigerator or in a water bath of cold water (refresh every 30 minutes). Defrost on your kitchen counter non-perishable goods with low moisture content; defrost in your refrigerator non-perishable goods with high moisture content.
- Food thawed in the refrigerator can generally be refrozen without any loss of quality.
- To cook most foods without thawing them first, double the cooking time in the oven but do not raise the oven temperature. Making the oven hotter only ensures that the outside will cook thoroughly before the inside is properly warm.