The do’s and don’t’s of freezing foods is a common concern for anyone. correctly, or was stored in huge portion sizes and can’t be refrozen. I have decades of experience freezing all types of foods and can definitively tell you what to do and what not to do.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Freezing Foods:
|Use freezer-safe containers||Use containers that are too big|
|Freeze food in portions||Freeze hot food|
|Store similar foods together||Freeze canned foods|
|Label containers||Freeze certain veggies or dairy|
|Clean the freezer regularly||Refreeze raw foods|
Trust me I have made every mistake in the book when it comes to food storage. Hopefully, you can learn from my errors by following the do’s and dont’s of freezing food. As a bonus, I’ll also give you guidelines on freezing particular types of foods.
1. Don’t Use Containers That Are Too Large for the Task
When freezing liquids, such as soups, stews, sauces, and pestos, you’ll want to freeze them in a ziplock container, ensuring there is 1 inch of space left to allow for expansion.
In any other containment system, like zip lock bags, you’ll want to make sure that you squeeze all of the air out once you have gotten ready to seal the bag. Don’t Throw it in the freezer with a bunch of air inside the freezer bag.
2. Do Freeze Portion-Sized Amounts
Freezing 9 chicken thighs together is okay if your family is made up of 4 or more people, but it isn’t a good idea for a couple or single person. It will ultimately just result in a lot of wasted food.
When you are preparing your portions for the freezer, go ahead and clean your meats, like chicken, prior to sealing and freezing. This way, once you pull the meat from the freezer and thaw it, it is ready to go in the pan.
Also, cleaner meat is going to take up less space, because you don’t have an additional pound or two of fat and gristle taking up space in the freezer. In addition, meat that is thoroughly washed and cleaned is going to be less likely to be contaminated and go bad early on while being stored.
3. Don’t Freeze Food While It Is Hot
Sticking hot food in the freezer can thaw nearby containers. After cooking, give the food the opportunity to cool to room temperature, then break into portions and freeze. Before you freeze any sauces or broths, make sure you strain any fat off of it once it has reached room temperature.
Quick tip: You can cool food down rapidly by putting the container in a ice water bath. This will allow you to save some time.
4. Do Use Freezer-Safe Containers
Using a freezer-safe container is of utmost importance. That is because non-safe versions can crack and cause spoilage down the road. They also can begin to leak when the food expands after freezing. Take my advice and invest in some quality freezer-safe containers, like these found on Amazon.
5. Don’t Freeze Canned Foods With a High Water Content
If you freeze canned foods, they can expand and destroy the seal. This can allow harmful bacteria in and spoil the food. Also, freezing beverages can even lead to an explosive mess inside your freezer.
6. Do Store Similar Foods Together
When freezing food for storage, you want to ensure that you store foods with other similar foods i.e. vegetables with vegetables, chicken with chicken, and so on.
Not only does this save time when you’re grabbing something quick for dinner, but it also helps in case you have forgotten to label something prior to freezing. It’s a lot harder to lose track of that “mystery food” if you are organized. This will help to prevent food waste, and also will save time when you are trying to locate your family’s dinner for the evening.
7. Don’t Freeze Certain Vegetables or Dairy Products
Almost all vegetables are perfectly fine to freeze, even after chopped, blanched, or fully prepared. The exceptions to the freezable vegetables are eggplant, potatoes, artichokes, and your salad greens. Essentially all other vegetables are fantastic out of the freezer and heated, or thawed and cooked after being in the freezer.
Avoid freezing cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurts, or mayonnaise. The texture of these types of dairy products will be altered by freezing making them crumbly or even rubbery.
8. Do Label Your Food With the Product and Date
Most of your frozen food is not going to have a shelf life of any longer than 1 year. Once you’ve reached the suggested expiration date, you’ll want to pull all of that product from that date and dispose of it. No sense in making everyone eat nasty food because you forgot to write the date you froze the meat on the package.
9. Don’t Refreeze Raw Food
Freezing only slows down the growth of bacteria and other nasty microbes. After defrosting, yeast or bacteria begins to rapidly multiply. If you refreeze it, you are just setting yourself up for getting sick.
10. Do Clean Your Freezer Once a Year
No matter how careful you are, foods are going to leak occasionally and stink up your freezer. Additionally, frost can slowly build up over time. This can cause its own set of issues.
Quick tip: Safe on energy by never storing your freezer near an oven or other heat sources. It will make your freezer work harder to maintain a low temperature.
Bonus Section: Guidelines for Freezing Particular Foods
Having a full freezer of food is always a good idea, be it for general preparedness or setting an additional place setting for a guest. There is nothing worse than throwing away food that wasn’t stored
Let’s run down the list by types of food so you have a comprehensive breakdown of how to freeze and not to freeze different foods.
Ground beef, pork chops, chicken breasts, steak, and every one of your favorite meats can be broken into portion-sized packages and frozen. Here are some helpful tips on how to store your meat in the freezer to get maximum shelf life out of your meat supplies:
- When freezing chicken, break your chicken into portion-sized packages (or whatever your recipe will call for) and clean it thoroughly. Wrap the chicken in saran wrap tightly, then wrap it in foil. Next, place your double wrapped chicken packet into a freezer ziplock bag, press the additional air out of the bag and seal. You will be able to safely use these chicken packs for up to 8 months from the date of storage.
- Ground beef should be broken into half-pound portions for freezing. Once you have your half-pound sorted out, place it into a freezer ziplock, then press the remaining air from the bag. Flatten your meat down as tightly as you can to save space, then safety store it for up to 8 months in your freezer.
- Casseroles should be wrapped tightly in foil, then placed into ziplock freezer bags to store. You may break your portions out however you prefer, but it will only typically have a shelf life of around 90 days, portioned or whole.
With fruits, you basically can’t go wrong with freezing. It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh or poured out of a can into a storage container, the fruit is going to freeze and keep well. This is good news if you are a jelly and jam-maker like me.
The great thing about fruit, you really don’t lose any flavor once you’ve frozen and thawed. In addition, the fruit will safely freeze and store for a year without needing to be thrown away.
Soups, Stews, and Sauces
All of your stocks, stews, soups, sauce, pesto and the remainder of your pantry liquids can be stored in airtight containers for 6 months. This is, of course, after cooling them and straining any fat prior to sealing in the container.
Seafood, such as shellfish and fish steaks will generally keep for 6 months in your freezer when properly packaged. You will package your seafood in the same fashion as your meat. Salmon steaks will need to be treated like chicken, saran wrapped, foil-wrapped, then sealed in a freezer bag.
Milk and buttermilk, surprisingly, can be frozen and will be safe to serve for 3 months. However, when milk and buttermilk are thawed for use, it can seem like it has a lumpier consistency. This doesn’t mean it is unsafe, it would be better used for cooking and baking versus pouring over cereal.
Butter can generally be safely frozen for a period of a year. Most of your other dairy products, however, such as cottage cheese and yogurt are not freezer to thaw safe, so you’ll want to avoid freezing these items for later use.
Other Freezer Safe Foods
Some other items that you can freeze for later use include:
- Flour (especially wheat flour if not immediately used)
- Pizza Dough
- Herbs and Spices
Can Thawed Food Be Refrozen?
There is still much debate over thawed foods being safe to refreeze. Some say it is perfectly safe, while others believe it is a cause of foodborne illnesses. It is always better to err on the side of caution in matters of food, especially when feeding your family. Once you have thawed anything outside of a constant temperature, such as the refrigerator, it needs to be immediately cooked or disposed of.
Your food could still be safe for consumption after being thawed and frozen again, but why take the chance that it will be fit to serve? There is a risk of contamination and illness when food temperatures aren’t maintained, and what could be a life-threatening illness isn’t worth the cost of a few pork chops.
In summary, providing you follow food safety guidelines, you generally have eight months to a year period that you can enjoy these foods once you have thawed and prepared them. This means eliminating a large amount of food waste and effectively saving your family major money on the food budget.
It is, however, always better to keep safety in mind over savings. If it is questionable, throw it out. If it is unlabeled or undated, throw it out. Lastly, never thaw and use food that has been improperly sealed while in the freezer. Outside of the freezer burnt taste, there is a great likelihood that it is not safe for consumption after a freezer mishap.
The general rule of thumb with frozen food for later preparation: If it doesn’t look like it should once you cook it, don’t serve it.
If you follow the do’s and dont’s presented here, you should have no problem keeping a freezer full of portion-sized ready to cook and serve food for your household. I hope you’ve liked reading this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thanks for stopping by!
Note: The suggestions for food handling are given for informational purposes only. Guidelines can change over time so be sure to check out the latest USDA guidelines on shelf life, storage times, or anything else to do with food storage. We will not be held liable for any mishandling of food.