How to Properly Freeze Food: Produce, Eggs, Meat, and More
If you like to shop in bulk, enjoy planning meals in advance, or simply have a picky family, you may find yourself freezing food weekly. But sometimes we thaw frozen food only to find that our attempts to prevent food waste have failed. The flavor is gone, the texture isn’t right, the food has freezer burn, or we just aren’t sure if it’s still safe to eat. Learning how to properly freeze food will help you prevent food waste (and save money) while still enjoying delicious, fresh-tasting food.
Getting Started With Freezing Foods
Freezing food only requires a few tools. You’ll need:
- A freezer that consistently maintains a temperature of zero degrees
- Freezer-safe containers (either plastic or glass)
- A dry-erase marker (or a permanent marker and masking tape)
Whenever possible, store long-term frozen goods toward the back center of your freezer. Never store long-term frozen goods in the door, as they will get freezer burn quickly from the changes in temperature when you open the door.
Always choose the smallest possible storage container for your food, and fill the container as full as possible to prevent freezer burn. After filling your containers, label them with the food they contain and the date. This way, you’ll never have to wonder if something in your freezer is still good.
How to Properly Freeze Fruits & Vegetables
Freezing fruits and vegetables can help you get more life out of your produce. Be sure to follow these steps to help your produce maintain its delicious flavor and texture for as long as possible.
If you’re interested in learning how to properly freeze food, fruit is a great place to start. Start by washing and drying it thoroughly, and preparing it however you like. Remove peels, rinds, and seeds, and chop or slice as desired.
While you can just toss your fruit into a container and pop it in the freezer, we recommend one additional step to prevent your produce from sticking together and getting mushy. Lay your fruit out on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze for an hour or two, until solid. Then transfer to your long-term storage containers or bags.
Fresh fruit, if thoroughly washed before freezing, will last up to three months. While you can eat it on its own after thawing, most people opt to use frozen fruit in baking, smoothies, and other recipes where its texture is less crucial.
Vegetables freeze well, but take a little more preparation than fruits. Begin by washing them thoroughly in cold water, and chopping them as desired. Then, you’ll need to blanch your vegetables to help them maintain their peak flavor and texture.
Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil on the stove. Prepare a large bowl of ice water to the side. Once your pot of water is boiling, add salt as desired in small batches so that the water remains boiling. Darker colored vegetables can bleed color into the water, so start with your lightest vegetables.
Boil your vegetables in small batches for two to five minutes depending on size and firmness. Check to see if your vegetables are done by removing one, dipping it in ice water, and tasting it. Once you are happy with the taste, remove all of your vegetables and “shock” them in the ice bath. Once cool, drain and dry the vegetables, and then follow the same steps for freezing fruit: first on a baking sheet, and then in your final container.
Like fruits, vegetables will also last around three months in the freezer. They taste best when cooked into soups, stews, or casseroles.
How to Properly Freeze Herbs
When it comes to learning how to properly freeze food, fresh herbs are a great place to start. Instead of letting them wilt and go bad, freeze them to enjoy for up to a year!
Chop your herbs as desired, then portion them out into the wells of an ice cube tray. Fill the wells with olive oil until your herbs are submerged. Freeze in your ice cube tray for a few hours, and then transfer to a freezer bag or container. Be sure to keep track of which herbs are which and label your final bags, as oil freezes opaque and it can be hard to tell later.
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How to Properly Freeze Bread & Desserts
While you may be tempted to toss the end of a loaf of bread directly into the freezer, it’s likely to quickly be covered in freezer burn. The secret to freezing bread and baked goods is to double-wrap – either with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, plastic bags, or food storage containers. The first layer should fit closely to the bread to keep air out, and the second layer helps prevent freezer burn.
If you’ll be defrosting your bread for sandwiches, consider wrapping pairs of slices separately, so you only have to thaw what you need.
The same rules apply for baked goods and other desserts – simply double wrap until you’re ready for them, then thaw and enjoy. You can even freeze individual balls of cookie dough to thaw and bake at a moment’s notice for a quick and delicious treat. Bread, baked goods, and desserts can be frozen for up to three months.
How to Properly Freeze Eggs
If you’ve bought too many eggs and are worried they will go bad before you can use them, you can freeze your eggs whole, as well as yolks and whites individually.
Freezing Eggs & Egg Whites
To freeze whole eggs, crack them all into a clean bowl. Gently whisk them until just combined, then pour them into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, you can transfer the cubes into a freezer bag or reusable container. Egg whites can be frozen the same way, simply separate your whites from your yolks, and pour them into an ice cube tray.
Freezing Egg Yolks
To freeze egg yolks, separate and gently combine them with a whisk. Then you’ll need to add either a pinch of salt or sugar per yolk, depending on what dishes you’ll be making with them. This helps the frozen yolks better maintain their texture and flavor. When frozen properly, eggs will last one year in the freezer.
How to Properly Freeze Dairy Products
Dairy products like milk and cheese are staples in most families’ refrigerators – but many people don’t know how to freeze them, or if they should freeze them.
Milk can be frozen easily in a reusable, freezer-safe container for up to six months (although taste and texture may be affected after a month or so). Milk expands when frozen, so be sure to leave room in your container so it doesn’t crack or burst as the milk freezes. You can also freeze milk in small portions using an ice cube tray.
Hard cheese can be frozen easily, without much change in flavor. Cut into small pieces (¼-½ lb. is ideal) and double wrap in plastic wrap, foil, or with reusable containers. Depending on the variety, hard cheese can last for years once frozen, but most experts suggest thawing and eating it within six months.
Soft cheeses like cream cheese and cottage cheese can also be frozen for around a month in any airtight container. They may separate, but with a quick stir, they’ll be ready for use in baking or cooking.
How to Properly Freeze Meat & Seafood
Many families save big by purchasing meat in bulk and freezing it. The key to making the most of your purchase is knowing how to freeze it properly. Freeze meats as soon as you get them home – not after they’ve sat in the fridge for a week. If they’ve been in the fridge for more than a day or two, you’re better off cooking them first before you freeze them.
The trick to freezing meat and seafood is getting as much air out as possible, and preventing air and moisture from getting in once the food is frozen. Freeze meat in the portions you’ll use it in, like meatballs, patties, or single chicken breasts. Start by wrapping your meat in plastic wrap or a freezer bag, followed by either a second freezer bag or a food storage container.
If you can, invest in a vacuum sealer, which will help meat, fish, and seafood maintain its flavor and texture even when frozen. When stored in the back center of the freezer, meat, fish, and seafood can be kept frozen for up to three months.