One of the most useful and underused tools in the kitchen is the freezer. While many people use it to store ready-made meals and ice cream, it can be much more versatile and help you manage your kitchen more effectively.
Almost any food you can think of can be frozen, except eggs and things in cans. Because a large part of everything we eat is water, when something is frozen, that water converts to ice and preserves the food. The action of harmful bacteria is completely stopped, which means that the food will not spoil as long as its frozen.
As a result, you can take advantage of some of these awesome benefits of freezing:
- Frozen foods have a long shelf life. If left undisturbed, foods like meat will retain their quality for up to a year.
- The nutritional value of frozen foods is generally thought to remain stable as long as they’re frozen.
- You can truly start buying fresh foods in bulk, because any excess can be stored in the freezer.
- Your freezer becomes a virtual food pantry, and a much healthier one than the canned and prepared foods you’re used to stocking.
- You can make your leftovers last longer by freezing them if you’ve made too much.
- You can prepare meals ahead of time in batches and freeze them for nights you don’t have time to cook.
I think the ability to buy in bulk and prepare meals ahead of time is among the biggest benefits, because it can help deter any “need” to go out to eat when you would otherwise be happy with making dinner at home. That can save a lot of money over time and help you with your daily routine.
7 Tips on Freezing Your Food Properly
Given all those benefits, how can you utilize freezing to its fullest? I have 7 key tips to get started:
- Buy a freestanding freezer to expand your freezing capacity. Today’s units are small and apartment-friendly and relatively inexpensive. At my local Sam’s Club, you can pick up a 7-cubic-foot freezer (with a footprint of 37″ x 23″) for under $200 that looks like it could easily meet the space needs of a typical family. If you need more space, the typical chest freezer tops out at 25 cubic feet.
- Buy easily freezable items in bulk. To shave off dollars quickly from your grocery bill, buy anything which is readily frozen in bulk and freeze anything you can’t use in a day or two immediately.
- Freeze quickly. One of the biggest enemies of frozen food are the ice crystals that form when food is frozen. Slow freezing leads to bigger crystals, which puncture and destroy the structure of the food around them. Find a way to freeze foods quickly–put them in the refrigerator overnight first to cool them off, surround them with ice in the freezer, only put in a little bit as a time, or as Alton Brown demonstrates on an episode of Good Eats, use some liquid nitrogen (very carefully, of course!). Never put hot foods in the freezer–they will expose the foods around them to unnecessary heat and take longer to freeze themselves.
- Repackage items in freezer bags and remove as much air as possible. Exposure to air can create freezer burn over time, while freezing things like meat in their original packaging makes for a messy defrosting process.
- Understand your freezer. Some areas of your freezer may not work as well as others. For example, anything we store on our freezer door, rather than in its core, will be consistently under-frozen when removed (I can tell by the way the ice cream looks).
- Figure out what tastes good defrosted. Just because you can freeze nearly anything doesn’t mean you’d want to. Among the things that freeze well are meats (especially chicken), chopped fruits and vegetables with a lot of water content, leftovers, breads, and pasta sauces.
- Experiment with the best ways to cook frozen foods. Anything you intend to put in a soup or stew is a no-brainer. Chicken also defrosts well and can be prepared in almost any way. Frozen vegetables, when preserved properly, can be just as crispy and tasty when they defrost as when fresh. Two that come to mind immediately are corn and green beans.
Like anything else in the kitchen, the best way to figure out what works in the freezer is to give it a try and see if it works out. Good luck freezing!
Photo by sporkist