Freezing Food Quick Guide

FREEZING TIPS

· Correct Freezer Temperature: 0° Fahrenheit.

· What Won’t Freeze: There are only a few cooked foods that don’t freeze well: plain, cooked meat, white rice and potatoes, and green beans (when not in soups or stews); boiled eggs; and gelatin-based dishes.

· Chill Before Freezing: Freezing is a process of removing heat from an object.  Food that has been thoroughly chilled in the refrigerator freezes quicker and with less damage to the cellular structure.

· How Long to Freeze: How long an item stays fresh in the freezer depends on several things.  If the freezer doesn’t have to be defrosted, food lasts longer.  If the food is raw and packaged airtight, it can last as long as six months.  If the food is cooked and packaged airtight, two months is a good rule of thumb. Use zip-lock bags and wraps specifically designated for the freezer.  Most plastic wrap is air permeable.  If exposed to air, food will dry out – a condition called “freezer burn.”  Freezing meat in its grocery store wrapping is fine if you plan to use it within two weeks.  Otherwise, unwrap and properly package.

· Freeze Flat: After you fill zip-lock bags for the freezer, lay them out flat on a baking sheet so that the contents are flat and freeze them lying on the baking sheet.  Then you can stack the bags – a great economy of space.

· Freeze Tight: Square and rectangular containers can also be stacked and you don’t lose the spaces that occur with round containers.

· Freeze, Then Wrap: In the best of all possible worlds, you will have just the right rectangular or square container to store every item.  If not, then follow this rule.  Items that can be squashed, such as breads and pies, and items with icing, such as cakes and cupcakes should be frozen, then wrapped.  Not only will this prevent the food from sticking to its wrapping, but no ice will form on the inside of the wrapping while the item chills down to freeze.

· Freeze in Batches or Prep Your Freezer: If you overload your freezer with too many things to freeze at once, even if they have been properly chilled, they won’t freeze fast enough to guarantee safety.  If you know you’re going to have a lot to put in at one time, plan ahead.  A few days before, freeze water in milk cartons and containers that you won’t need.  Intersperse them with the added food.  These blocks of ice will help to keep the temperature down inside the freezer.

· Buy Extra and Freeze. Take advantage of the low prices and high quality of seasonal fruits and vegetables.  Blanch legumes before freezing to give them a longer freezer life.  Freeze legumes and berries in one layer on baking sheets and package once frozen.  They will stay loose and you can use the amount you need without thawing a block.

· Frozen Herbs and Spices are Fresher: Keep your jars of herbs and spices on one of the shelves on the freezer door – or in an open box that’s easy to reach.  They will keep their color and flavor twice as long.

· Maximize Your Frozen Assets: Attach an erasable board with a pen to the freezer door, top, or side and keep a list of what you have inside.  If you’re really organized, you can separate categories: meats on one shelf, vegetables on another, etc.

· Thaw in the Refrigerator.  Because of the chemical process that the cells undergo in freezing, almost everything will be in better shape if it thaws in the refrigerator.

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