Freezing Food: 101 [How To Freeze Basically Everything]

I bet you knew this post was coming, amiright?

I have been dubbed “The Freezer Queen” (a title I am honoured to hold) so I thought I should have a post that lives here on the blog as a point of reference. I’m sure there will be more tips that come to mind after I’ve published this so, as I think of things, I will come back and add them later!!

Now, without further ado, let’s get started!

Basic Freezing Tips and Ground Rules:
  • Always remember that foods should be at room temperature before being placed into the freezer (if food is warm, it will begin to lower the temperature in your freezer – which is never good!).
  • Always remove as much air as you can before placing items in the freezer (if you are freezing items in a freezer bag, suck out excess air with a straw, or place the bag into a pot of water to remove air) because excess air is what causes freezer burn. Obviously, if you have a vacuum sealer, that does the job best!
  • Label and date everything…you think you’ll remember what you’ve placed in your freezer, but you’d be surprised how similar beef stew and homemade dog food look!!
  • Remember that food expands when frozen, so always allow for extra space in you freezer container (especially important with freezer jars – yes you can freeze jars –  because, without extra space, the jar may break when frozen!).
  • Always defrost food in the fridge but if you find your food isn’t quite defrosted, place it  (well wrapped) in a sink full of cold water! Never use hot water!
  • Although you can freeze in tempered glass, not all glass is freezable. Make sure it is freezer safe before popping it in the freezer. And, when cooking a casserole or lasagna, make sure you use aluminum to avoid shattering when defrosting!
  • If you want an engineers take on ‘everything you need to know about your freezer’, take a peek at this article written by Danny Bourque (who is the husband of my pal Aimee). And, speaking of Aimee, she has some pretty nifty tips on her site (Take a peek at this article from my “no waste” queen”). I mean, anyone who has a freezer like this (below), deserves to be heard, no?

  • Always try to keep your freezer relatively full – it works more efficiently that way! If you don’t have enough food in there to keep it full, fill it with bags of ice for now!
  • If you’re making any dish that requires a lot of effort, make a double batch and freeze some for another day (I have a few on the blog – like pasta al forno, lasagna, chili ( even a vegetarian one!), meatballs, to name a few!
  • If you can’t remember how long things can be left in your freezer, here’s a good chart for you from Thirty Hand Made Days:

What Can Be Frozen:

Meat/Poultry/Fish: I would say any meat can be frozen – just make sure it’s well wrapped  and labelled – but the size will tell you how long it can be in there for.  The bigger the piece of meat (i.e.. roast or whole chickens), the longer they can be there. and, obviously, the more delicate the protein (think, fish), the less time it should spend in your freezer (see chart above for times). And, yes, even cooked meat can be frozen (I will often cook up a double batch of ground beef which means I can make a batch of tacos in no time flat!!

How to make the most meatloaf ever

Herbs: If you’re like me, you always have a pile of herbs leftover after you’ve purchased a bunch for a recipe (and don’t get me started about growing your own herbs…there is always such an abundance!!!). Freezing is the best way to keep them (long term)..check out this post for all the details! You could almost always make a pesto with your herbs (check out my recipe for pesto alla Genovese here) and then freeze it in ice cube trays to add directly to your pasta!! And another very important note: when you’ve pulled all the leaves off of your parsley, keep the stems and freeze them for your next pot of stock (deets are in this post) …there’s actually more flavour in the stems than there is in the leaves!

Freezing your Fresh Herbs

Fruit: Almost every fruit can be frozen! See the list below for details!

a) Bananas (look here for method): used to make a smoothie, in baked goods or even “nice cream”!!

b) Any berry (brushed free of dirt and flash frozen on a baking sheet and then placed in a freezer bag/container) : used in a smoothie or baking!!

c) Apples and pears (peeled, cored and chopped): when you want an apple or pear crisp, just dump, sprinkle with sugar , top with a crumble (which can also be made ahead and frozen) and bake!

d) Peaches (peeled, stone removed and chopped/sliced): Like the crisp above, these are fabulous for a summer dessert or used in baked goods!

e) Citrus fruits (peeled and sectioned if using in smoothies or cut in half if using for cleaning cutting boards or putting in the cavity of a chicken or turkey). And remember, you can zest citrus fruit and freeze the zest for later and you can also throw all of your used lemon halves into a bag…they can be used for almost anything you would use an un-squeezed lemon for (except for juice of course!!)

f) Melons (peeled, de-seeded and cubed): the best in a smoothie or drop chunks into water to keep it cool and flavoured!

g) Grapes (washed and placed in a freezer bag): frozen grapes taste like grape popsicles when you eat them straight out of the freezer. They’re also great to make roasted grape focaccia (in my cookbook). But, the best hack is this: when you have white wine that isn’t cold enough, drop in a few grapes and it will cool off your wine without watering it down!

h) Fruit juice: If you take a peek at this post, you’ll see an ingenious way to freeze leftover juice and it will even make you drink more water!!

climate change and food choices

Vegetables:

a) Greens: You name a leafy green and it can be frozen (just not delicate lettuces that are mostly water – think iceberg). Sturdy greens like kale, swiss chard and spinach are so good to have on hand in your freezer – especially if you grow it!! Take a peek here where I lay out, step-by-step how to prep it for the freezer!!

b) Tomatoes: Everything you need to know about freezing tomatoes is in this post!!

c) Corn: I know we all buy corn (and peas) in the freezer isle of your local grocer but you don’t know what you’re missing until you have sweet corn taken off the cob and frozen days after it’s been picked!! Take a peek here to find out how to do it!!

d) Zucchini: So, if you’ve ever grown zucchini, you will understand this! When it’s zucchini season, there is an abundance of zucchini and all of us think, “I wish there was a way of keeping all of this zucchini all year long! Well, let me help you!  You can grate your extra zucchini and freeze it (all the deets are here!) or you can cube it and freeze it to use in soups in the dead of winter (again, all the deets are here!). Now, I want you all to promise you will plant at least one zucchini plant next year!!

e) Potatoes: Yes you can totally freeze potatoes! You can quickly par boil peel and chop potatoes and then freeze them to use later or you can make mashed potatoes and freeze them to reheat later (there is a secret ingredient in my freezable mashed potatoes that you can find out about here). So, the moral of the story is, if you find a 10 pound bag of potatoes for $3, make sure you buy them!!

f) Broccoli: If you find yourself with a head of broccoli that you don’t think you’ll use, just cut it into florets and place them into a freezer bag. When the cold weather arrives, you’ll be so happy you did because, with a bag of frozen broccoli, you’ll have the best broccoli and cheddar soup in the world (recipe coming soon!!)

g) Sweet potato/Squash/pumpkin: Any of these vitamin-rich veggies are a goldmine when it comes to freezing leftovers!! If you have any Sweet potato/Squash/pumpkin that you think you may not use, just peel and chop them into bite sized pieces and freeze them…they can be roasted off and served as a side or used as a puree in any soup!! And, if you’ve boiled/roasted any of these and found yourself with leftovers (hello…anyone who has a pumpkin after Halloween, roast if off, puree and freeze. All the deets are here!!)

h) Onion/Garlic: This one is the easiest! If you find yourself with a bag of onions or loads of garlic and they are starting to sprout, just peel and chop all of them (you can even cheat and use your food processor to chop them!). Place them in a Ziploc bag and freeze them (try to flatten the bag so you can break off pieces as you need them).

i) Celery: Same as onions…wash, chop and freeze! When you need celery for soup, stock or a sofrito, you will be laughing!! Also, keep the celery leaves in a separate bag to use for stock!!

J) Peppers: In the fall I always buy a bushel of red peppers. I roast and freeze some of them and then I slice the rest to sue later! check out this post and  this post for all the details! You can also stuff peppers and then freeze them pre-baking. They make a great quick freezer meal!

How to Freeze Fresh Peppers

Dairy:

a) Hard Cheese: You can freeze any hard cheese but it is almost always better grated. Parmigiano can be sprinkled directly onto your food from its frozen state (it doesn’t usually clump up when frozen) but softer cheese like cheddar might stick together a bit more.  This is a great way to have cheese on hand for pizza or pasta (tip: when you have bits and bobs of cheese left over from a charcuterie board, throw them into a freezer bag and then use them for your next batch of macaroni and cheese!!!!). And make sure you save those parmigiano rinds…they are like gold in the kitchen (deets are here).

b) Soft Cheese: I have frozen cottage cheese and ricotta! When it is defrosted, it may get a bit grainy but a quick whir in your blender and you have a wonderful addition to any pasta to make it gloriously creamy.

c) Cream Cheese: Oh yes I have frozen cream cheese and then used it for cheesecake…yup!

d) Butter: Bring on all the butter when it is on sale! I usually have about 12 pounds of butter in my freezer at any given time. If freezes great (tip: when you are making pastry that asks you to ‘cut in’ butter, take out your block of frozen butter, leave it out for about 10 minutes and then, using the large holes on your box grater, grate it right into your flour mix!! Easy peasy!). And, since we’re on the topic of butter, why not make up a batch of compound butter (whipped butter with herbs and spices), roll it into a log and wrap it nicely in parchment! It will make a beautiful hostess gift in a pinch!!

e) Milk: When there were 5 of us living here, we would go through bags of milk so quickly! But, now that it is just me and my husband, it’s hard to finish 4 litres of milk before it expires. I know I could just buy 1 litre cartons, but buying 1 litre costs as much as 4!! So I buy the 4 litre bag and keep one out, freezing the other two. When I need another bag, I take one out of the freezer, put it in the fridge overnight and then put it in a sink full of water to finish defrosting. A good shake and it’s ready to go! I’ve been doing this for years and my husband has yet to find out!

f) Yogurt/buttermilk/kefir/heavy cream: So, I’ve talked about freezing yogurt before but I want to clarify something. When you freeze something like any of these dairy items, they tend to either become more liquid or they separate. I will often freeze them in ice cube trays (that way you can pop one into a dish to thicken it without defrosting a large amount) but if I think I’ll be making a coffee cake or something that requires like 2 cups of yogurt, I’ll just throw the whole container in the freezer. If you whisk it up with a wire whisk, it will come together beautifully!

The Only Classic Cheesecake Recipe You'll Ever Need {plus troubleshooting tips to get it right}

Baked Goods:

a) Cookie Dough: I always say a ‘fresh-out-of-the-oven’ is waaay better than one baked two days ago. So why not make up a batch of your favourite cookie dough, bake off a dozen or so and then freeze the rest. You can simply roll them into balls and freeze them that way or you can roll them into logs, wrap them in parchment and freeze them that way. Then, when you need a hostess gift, pull one out, tie it up with pretty ribbon and attach the baking instructions (here is a post all about that!!).

b) Big Batch Cinnamon Buns: I make this recipe around the holidays because it makes a few trays on sweet buns that can be gifted and then baked off whenever they like! Check out the details here!

c) Muffins and Quick Breads: All muffins freeze really well and quick breads are the same!! The only thing I would suggest is when you bake off a banana bread loaf, for example, slice it when it’s cool and then wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Put all the pieces (wrapped) back together to form a loaf and freeze it in a Ziploc bag. Then, you can take out a slice and put it in your lunch bag…it will keep the rest of your food cool and it will be defrosted and totally yummy by lunchtime!!

d) Breads: As you can imagine, you can freeze baked and store bought bread. I will let you read all about it in this post by Two Twenty One! The main thing here is to make sure you keep it well wrapped!

baking bread in 2020

Pasta/Rice/Starches: Some people say you can’t freeze pasta and rice, but you can!! As I posted above, you can make any ‘pasta al forno’ dish and freeze it for another time (just think about what you see in your grocer’s freezer – lasagna galore!!). I will freeze cooked rice and then add it to soup when I need something starchy in my pot (I know people do defrost and eat it plain but I feel like it loses it’s bite).

A Step by Step Guide to Making Authentic Italian Lasagna

Miscellaneous:

a) Brewed coffee: For those of you who are coffee addicts (uhhhum, me!), you may brew a big pot of coffee and then find yourself with a few leftover cups. The secret to the best iced coffee is having some coffee ice cubes on hand (yup, just pour that leftover coffee into some ice cube trays and freeze ’em up!!)…then, as the coffee ice cubes melt, it doesn’t water down your coffee! Here is a post on all the details for a perfect iced coffee!  And, another use is to throw a couple of ice cubes into your morning smoothie for an extra caffeine kick!!

chocolate hazelnuts coffee

b) Eggs: Although eggs can last quite a long time in your fridge (5 weeks or longer…and never keep them on the door), sometimes you may find yourself with an abundance of eggs! Raw whole eggs can be frozen by whisking together the yolk and the white (and egg whites and yolks can be separated and frozen individually – I find ice cube trays good for this). Raw eggs can be frozen for up to 1 year, while cooked egg dishes should only be frozen for up to 2–3 months. If you want a more detailed post on this, the people over at My Spruce Eats do a good job here)

d) Sauces: I am quite sure that you all know you can freeze sauces like tomato sauce, but did you know you can freeze most sauces? Of course there are sauces like chimichurri and barbecue and hot sauce, but what about caramel and sweet sauces? Most can be frozen – and if you find they break when you defrost them, a quick whir in the blender will solve your problems. Just remember that anything that is oil-based (think mayo or aioli) will separate after defrosting – although, again, a quick whir might solve that too (haven’t tried). My suggestion is to freeze all sauces in smaller packages because, in most case, you won’t need 6 cups of sauce at once!

e) Soup: I know most of you know you can freeze soup. And many of you will freeze stock and soup in mason jars (which looks really pretty in your freezer)…but it takes up waaay too much space. Check out my ingenious way of freezing soup – all the details are in this post!

Super Quick Kale and White Bean Soup

That’s it…I think!!

Just remember to keep this post somewhere so you can refer to it the next time you’re thinking of chucking that last bowl of soup!!

 

To Pin later!!

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