Whether it’s leftovers or fresh produce, freezing food is the best way to combat food waste and have something to eat on-hand. While the freezing process is straightforward, the particulars of freezing some foods can be a bit trickier.
Here’s Chef Lynn Michelle’s guide to freezing…well…everything.
Food Safety 101
Freezing DOES NOT kill foodborne bacteria, but it does slow their growth. Once the food is thawing, bacteria will wake back up, which means it’s time to either cook or eat the food.
Freeze foods in plastic containers or freezer bags, not glass, which cracks when exposed to rapid temperature change. Keep in mind that freezer bags are different from sandwich bags because freezer bags are made from thicker plastic and contain an additive, which prevents it from becoming brittle in colder temperatures (e.g., in your freezer).
In many cases, you can use frozen foods as soon as you need them. However, high-protein foods like beef, chicken, and fish should first defrost in the refrigerator. Leaving them on the counter or defrosting them under hot water can lead to a case of food poisoning.
Fresh Produce and Herbs
Cut fruits and vegetables into the sizes or shapes you’re most likely to cook with, then store them in a freezer bag for later. Make sure to remove as much of the air as possible prior to freezing!
Herbs can be stored in an ice cube tray with enough water to cover them, then thawed in the sink when you’re ready to use them.
Store fruits and vegetables for two to three months, and one month for herbs.
Meat, Poultry, and Fish
Standard freezer bags work well when it comes to freezing meat, but using a vacuum-sealed bag prevents food from getting freezer burn. Never put a styrofoam + cling-wrap package of chicken or beef directly into the freezer, as the air between the packaging and the meat gives protein a funny aftertaste.
Store meat and fish for three to four months, and chicken for six.
Breads, cookies, cakes, and brownies can be double-wrapped in cling wrap, or stored in a plastic container. Unlike highly perishable foods, baked goods can be left to thaw on the countertop overnight.
Store baked goods for two to three months.
Eggs and Dairy
Freezing temperatures causes whole eggs to burst. Instead of freezing them as-is, crack eggs into a bowl, lightly beat them with a pinch of salt, then store in a plastic container. You can also store egg whites and yolks separately.
Milk can be frozen, but separates in the cold. Cheese can be frozen when cut into pieces and double-wrapped. Heavy cream and sticks of butter freeze well, but half-and-half and whipped butter do not.
You can freeze a whole baked dish by using an aluminum pan and wrapping it tightly with foil. Allow to thaw for at least an hour before going into the oven, and take extra time to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. You can remove the foil during the last 20 minutes or so to ensure the top crisps up.
Store baked dishes for two to three months.
Soups and Stews
Think ahead before freezing an entire pot of soup in one container. Are you really going to need all that at once? Portion soups or stews into multiple plastic containers or freezer bags before storing them.
Store for one to two months.
A great way to keep track of your freezer haul is by labeling your goods with date, contents, and if you want to go the extra mile, thawing instructions. This will save you time head-scratching, trying to determine when in the world you put your items in the freezer.
Having a fridge and freezer stocked with delicious, ready-to-eat meals takes away the hassle of cooking and ordering out – especially if you’re feeding a crowd. Chef Lynn Michelle can prepare a week’s worth of gourmet meals in your kitchen to save and then savor. Give her a call at 843-422-5480 to learn more about her personal chef and family services.
Can’t remember all the freeze lengths from Chef Lynn Michelle’s “How to Freeze Everything” blog post? You are in luck! We have a simple table below so that you can print and access any time you need. Happy freezing!