Knowing how to properly freeze food is a great skill to have for all sorts of reasons. You may not have time to cook meals every single day, but eating out can be both expensive and unhealthy. If you cook when you have got the time and freeze some meals in advance, you can always enjoy something delicious and well-prepared that's not loaded with sodium and fats, like a lot of restaurant meals. Freezing food is also a good way to stock up when there are problems in the world like catastrophic weather or virus outbreak that put a strain on the grocery stores.
Which Foods Freeze Well?
Some foods and meals actually freeze a lot better than others. Soup, stew, chili, casserole, and meatloaf all freeze very well. So if you're planning to freeze some food in advance, one of these dishes is a great option. Meat of all kinds also freezes well if you store it properly.
On the other hand, there are foods that do not freeze well. Gravy and sauces made with cornstarch or flour tend to separate when they freeze. Dairy products, like milk and cream, also tend to separate after they've been frozen.
Fruits and veggies that have a high water content, like lettuce, get limp and soggy after they're thawed.
Pasta and potatoes have a tendency not to freeze well. Potatoes take on a gritty texture once they're thawed out. Pasta can taste mushy after being frozen.
Baked goods can be frozen, but you'll need to take an extra step. Wrap bread, cookies, muffins, and other baked goods in two layers of plastic wrap before you place them in freezer bags. Otherwise, these items could become mushy once they've been thawed.
Follow the steps to properly freeze food and you won't lose any nutritional value or taste when you thaw your meal to enjoy it sometime in the future.
Step 1 - Let it Cool
You don't want your food to be hot or even warm before you freeze it. Let the dish cool completely. If you place a warm dish in the freezer, this can actually affect other items in the freezer and cause them to partially thaw. To cool food quickly, place it in a shallow, uncovered container and place it in the refrigerator. For soup or stew, pour it into a heat-resistant glass bowl and set it in an ice bath. Stir it a few times.
Step 2 - Skim the Fat
Some dishes, like chili, may develop a little layer of fat on top as they cool. Always skim the fat before you freeze your food. Fat spoils over time and it can actually ruin the entire dish.
Step 3 - Choose the Right Container
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just wrap your food in foil and throw it in the freezer? However, this is a terrible idea. You want to put your food, including liquid foods like soups, in moisture-proof plastic bags with a ziplock closure. Remove any air from the bag before you seal it.
Pro tip—store small servings. You don't want to unthaw a huge serving when you only need one meal. Place just enough food for a single meal in each bag, so you can unthaw just one serving at a time.
Step 4 - Mark the Bags
Do yourself a favor and mark your bags. Write down what's in the bag and the date you put it in the freezer. This way, you'll know what you're going to eat and you'll know when it was frozen so you can eat the oldest items first.
Step 5 - Store Food Bags Flat in the Freezer
This way, they are easy to store and won't take up a lot of space. Place your bags in a single layer with some space between them. You want your food to freeze quickly because this results in the best possible quality once it’s thawed out again.
How to Freeze Veggies
When you freeze fresh produce, it will still taste fresh even if you thaw it and eat it weeks later. However, you need to know the proper way to freeze vegetables so they still taste fresh and have the right texture when you eat them in the future.
Step 1 - Prep
Get fresh veggies ready for freezing. This means peeling carrots, slicing peppers, removing seeds and generally turning your veggies into edible, cookable little bites.
Step 2 - Blanch
To blanch vegetables, you need to place them in boiling water for about a minute, maybe two.
Step 3 - Chill
After they've boiled briefly, immediately remove vegetables and place them in ice water.
Step 4 - Drain and Dry
Drain the water and let your veggies dry completely.
Step 5 - Freeze
After they've been dried, spread your veggies on a sheet pan and freeze them just like that. Once they're frozen, you can transfer them to plastic storage bags and store them along with all your other frozen foods.
How to Freeze Casseroles
If you're going to freeze a casserole to eat it in the next day or two, you can take a much simpler approach to the process. Make your casserole and arrange in a baking dish like you ordinarily would, but do not cook it. Cover the top well with foil and pop it in the freezer. You can bake and eat your casserole the next time!
Enjoy Within Three Months
When frozen properly, most foods will last up to three months in the freezer with no spoiling. Take the time to follow the steps and store some food in advance. You never know what might happen in the future!