The Basics of Freezing Food
Basics of FREEZING FOOD
Save time, money and calories by planning ahead and freezing food.
STOCKING UP. FREEZING FOOD
Your freezer likely houses a variety of uncooked ingredients and foods you use most often, such as ground meat, chicken breast, pork chops and frozen vegetables. These foods help simplify menu planning and speed up dinner preparation on days you cook from scratch.
But on busy days or when you just don’t feel like cooking, your freezer can become a gold mine for quick meals that simply need to be thawed, reheated and enjoyed!
The next time you are making muffins, a casserole, soup or one of many other Comfort Food Diet ideas, double the recipe and freeze half to use another day or for lunches. With those meals waiting for you in your freezer, it will be easy to eat healthy and stick to your calorie budget when you come home tired and hungry after a long workout or stressful day at work.
In addition, your freezer can help you take advantage of weekly sales and bulk pricing are a bonus for your diet and wallet!
WHAT CAN I FREEZE? FREEZING FOOD
Almost any food can be frozen, but some maintain their quality better than others. Raw meat and poultry hold up very well in the freezer and can be good money-savers if you purchase them in bulk or on sale. Soups and stews freeze well and are easily defrosted. Baked goods are easy to freeze when you want to enjoy a cookie or two and store the rest.
Fruits like bananas (without the peel), strawberries, blueberries and raspberries do well in the freezer, and they come in very handy when you want to whip up a nutritious smoothie for breakfast. Fill a glass with frozen fruit, pour juice over it and blend it all together. You will have the exact amount of smoothie that you want and easily get a few servings of fruit for the day.
Lots of things can be frozen. So the more important question is: What will defrost well and still be edible and appetizing?
WHAT NOT TO FREEZE. FREEZING FOOD
- CASSEROLES made with mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt or cream cheese, as well as gravies and cream-based sauces. These items will separate after thawing and the casserole will have a watery or curdled appearance.
- RAW PRODUCE WITH A HIGH WATER CONTENT, such as cabbage, celery, lettuce, other leafy greens, cucumbers, radishes, watermelon, tomatoes and citrus fruits. They become limp and waterlogged after thawing.
- COOKED POTATOES used in dishes like salads, soups or stews. They become soft, mealy and waterlogged after thawing. Consider cooking raw potatoes while you are thawing a soup or stew to add when it is reheated. However, mashed and twice-baked potatoes do freeze well.
- DAIRY ITEMS like cream sauces, sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise and sauces and gravies thickened with flour and cornstarch. They will separate during defrosting.
- COOKED PASTA can be soft and mushy after defrosting. For the best results, undercook pasta before freezing or cook pasta while the sauce or vegetables are thawing.
HOW TO PACKAGE THE FOOD. FREEZING FOOD
- The materials used to store food in the freezer need to protect their edible contents from the harsh climate while maintaining quality and moisture content. Use materials that are durable, freezer-safe and moisture- and vapor-proof.
- Suitable materials for freezing food are: plastic freezer jars, freezer bags, strong plastic freezer containers, plastic wrap, vacuum-sealed packages, heavy-duty foil and freezer paper. Meat and poultry may be frozen in the wrapping from the butcher for short-term freezing but only for up to a month.
- Avoid freezing food in glass jars from food products (like a spaghetti sauce jar or pickle jar), margarine tubs, cottage cheese tubs and milk cartons.
FREEZING LIKE A CHAMP. FREEZING FOOD
- When freezing foods, always start with fresh, high quality food. Remember that foods past their prime will not improve upon freezing. That is why commercial produce is frozen at the peak of freshness are so it will be of the highest quality when you reheat it at home.
- For convenience and faster reheating, package the food in single-meal or single-serving portions. This will also help you control how much you eat and keep track of calories.
- Use plastic freezer jars and rigid containers for soups, stews and other liquid items. Leave some space at the top of the container to give the food space to expand as it freezes. Liquid items can also be stored in freezer bags to save space. You can lay them flat and stack them when they are frozen.
- If you want to freeze a casserole or lasagna, line the casserole dish with heavy-duty foil before placing food in it. Be generous with the foil and leave big flaps around the outside of the dish. Once the food is frozen, use the foil flaps to remove it from the dish and wrap the flaps securely around the food and store it back in the freezer. For added protection, put it in a resealable plastic freezer bag.
- Remove as much air as possible when packaging the food. Label and date each package so you remember what it is. Stack the packages when they are completely frozen to help keep your freezer neat and organized.
DEALING WITH FREEZER BURN. FREEZING FOOD
- Freezer burn is not a food safety issue, but it certainly is a food quality issue. It occurs when food is not wrapped properly and is exposed to the frigid air for too long. The food gets dried out and icy and may not taste the same.
- Freezer burn appears as dry, leathery, off-colored areas on meat and poultry. The freezer-burned areas can be cut off before or after cooking. Any vegetables or fruit that are icy or shriveled should be discarded. To prevent this and keep your food tasty and long-lasting, be extra careful next time to remove as much of the air as possible.
DEFROSTING. FREEZING FOOD
- Even when your food is sealed and dated, there are just three safe ways to defrost food and many unsafe ways to do it. For example, don’t defrost food at room temperature on the kitchen counter, in warm water or outdoors. The exception to this is baked goods like breads, cakes and cookies. Just unwrap these items while they thaw to prevent them from getting soggy.
These are the three safe ways to defrost food:
- REFRIGERATOR DEFROSTING is safe and fuss-free, but it is the slowest method, so planning ahead is key. Most items take one or two days. Small items like a pound of ground beef can be defrosted overnight, but bulky, large items will take even longer to thaw. Allow three to five hours per pound for a small beef or pork roast and five to seven hours per pound for a large roast. A whole turkey or large whole chicken will need an entire day for every four to five pounds. When defrosting in the refrigerator, place each item in a bowl or on a plate to catch any liquid or juices.
- COLD WATER DEFROSTING takes less time than thawing in the refrigerator but requires more attention. To defrost in cold water, place food in a watertight plastic storage bag. If the bag leaks, the food will absorb the water, which will affect its texture and may expose it to bacteria. Place the bag in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes until the food is thawed.
- MICROWAVE DEFROSTING is suitable for last-minute thawing of small items. To defrost something in the microwave, unwrap the food and place it on a microwave-safe dish. Follow the manufacturer are recommended time and settings based on the weight of the food. Microwave defrosting can cause some areas to actually cook, so plan on preparing the food immediately after defrosting.
KEEP IT ORGANIZED. FREEZING FOOD
- Along with dating your frozen treats, prevent your freezer from turning into the lost land of frozen surprises by keeping a list of what is in it. List the item and the date it was placed in the freezer. As the item is used, cross it off the list and add new items as you freeze them.
- Another easy way to keep your freezer organized is to label and date your frozen treasures on the containers themselves. Use masking tape that can be easily removed as you eat the food and reuse the container.
WHAT TO FREEZE FROM THE COMFORT FOOD DIET. FREEZING FOOD
- It is easy to stay on track if you plan ahead and have healthy, nutritious food available at all times by
- It is easy to stay on track if you plan ahead and have healthy, nutritious food available at all times by storing some items in the freezer. You won’t be left wondering what to make for dinner, and you will be less tempted to hit up the drive-thru or order some take-out.
- Here is a list of recipes from the Comfort Food Diet Cookbook that will hold up in the freezer and be as delicious when reheated as they were when made fresh.
“Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook New Quick & Easy Favorites”