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Tips for Freezing and Thawing Your Foods

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.

Thawing Tips

  • 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.

GET FREEZING!

By Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is a twenty-something blogger, cook, freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. She’s a feminist trying ever-so-hard to embrace her spaces, conventional or not. She looks forward to numerous bad hair days, burnt cremes, a soapbox or two, and maybe (just maybe) a yellow polka-dot bikini in the years ahead.

18 replies on “Tips for Freezing and Thawing Your Foods”

Wanted to add my two cents about a couple of things:

Regarding the do not freeze list, if lettuce is your only experience then freezing greens would be a very bad thing, but I have had great luck freezing kale, beet and turnip greens.  Blanch them slightly, drain and cool them.  Then spread the leaves out on sheet pans to freeze before packing into bags.  Even better if it’s already freezing outside.  I did this with enough turnip and beet greens to last me all last winter (five months worth).  Of course, I didn’t use them as fresh for steamed or sauteed applications, but they were terrific for soups and stir-fry.

Regarding defrosting: in my experience, if you put the item in a water bath with the barest trickle of water from the faucet circulating the water to boot (not running over the item being defrosted but into the water surrounding it) things defrost SO much faster.  I mean like 1-2 hours for a roast versus half a day on the counter or overnight in the fridge.

I love this about the kale! I’m not surprised it, beet, and turnips greens would do much better, as they’re quite a bit hardier. Silly me, I did not even think about the application of these greens for soups and stews. They’ve never been viable for sauteing after I’ve frozen them so I kinda wrote them off. For soups and stews, though? They’d be perfect!

 

This was timely for me.  I made a batch of pumpkin cinnamon rolls yesterday that I didn’t want to eat one of every day, nor do I want tempting me with their accessibility.  I did some googling and saw plenty of people saying they have frozen their cooked and iced cinnies without incident.  I have a whole month of Sunday pumpkin cinnies to look forward to now!

Although reading this has made me slightly concerned that the Rubbermaid containers I used will let in too much air.

I freeze tons of stuff in my rubbermaid containers (the ones with the clicky-stackable lids), and I’ve addressed the extra space by just scrunching up some wax paper to fill the empty space. I know it sounds like it really wouldn’t do much, but it has made all the difference in the world for me.

Cinnamon rolls are PERFECT for freezing and using, too, so I think you’ll have great luck storing it, no matter the method you choose, so long as you ensure it’s airtight.

Did you blanch the asparagus it cook it outright?  It ought to freeze ok if blanched, but why would you want to freeze asparagus?

Bell peppers should also be sliced thin before blanching.  I think the reason is this (though I’m sort of guessing): freezing ruins food because the water in the cells expands and contracts and turns everything into mush.  Cooking also destroys cell walls, but in a more controlled way that we also find more palatable.  I think that by blanching first the cell walls are already destroyed before freezing can do it, but they are destroyed in a way we find more appetizing.  Can anybody back me up on this?

But blanching should give you better results.

 

 

 

This is so useful, thanks!

If I may, I have a question. I made a huge thing of risotto a few weeks ago, couldn’t eat all of it, and froze the remaining portions. Now, the internet is telling me that I should basically give up those frozen portions for lost, they’re not going to reheat well at all. Any advice on this?

An authentic risotto without cream will reheat without the gobs of ungodly curdling, but the starches will likely have broken down to make it a touch, um, mushy.

My suggestion is to take some of the risotto, allow it to defrost in a cool water bath (if it’s well-sealed) or counter top. Then, you can either try reheating it in your oven (I’d try 375) and check it periodically. Alternatively, you can try to reheat it gently in a pan.

My guess either way is that you’ll get something that is much less satisfying than the original.

Hate to think of all that food going to waste, though (and ESPECIALLY risotto), so you might try incorporating it into a casserole. Allow it to defrost, throw in some veggies, a little chicken, a dash of pepper and garlic, top with Panko or cheese, and bake at 375 in a casserole dish until the chicken is cooked through.

Best of luck!

I’m curious — why shouldn’t I use aluminum with tomato-based things?  For years I ate oodles and oodles of lasange and manicotti (both very tomato based) frozen in tin foil (which is really aluminum foil and should be renamed methinks because clearly aluminum != tin) and I’d like some warning if I’m about to snuff it.

There is certainly nothing dangerous or deadly about using aluminum, so I wouldn’t worry about tossing any of the good stuff you mention if it’s already stored with foil or if that’s the cheapest method for you.

The reason to avoid aluminum pans and foil has to do with the chemical reaction that occurs between tomatoes and the metal. It tends to make the flavor bitter, fade the color of the tomato, and for some people, leave a highly metallic, slightly acidic flavor. For some, this change in flavor is minor; for others, it is intense. So it may be that you are one of those who cannot tell the difference, and if so, then I wouldn’t worry a fig about it.

Personally, several of my friends and I can tell the difference. My husband, however, cannot; so he gets to eat all the tomato stuff I stored with foil while we eat all the rest of the stuff I stored in plastic. At least there’s no waste!

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