Oh, freezer, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love you for your depth, for your ability to preserve raw materials, for your easy storage options, for your ability to save money and food.

I’ve always been a fan of the freezer, but now that I prepare most food from scratch, I’ve really gotten into freezing food. I usually freeze meal components that I can defrost later to make a fresh, homemade meal without losing a lot of food to rot. I don’t do freezer cooking, or meals for a month, because I don’t have room and I like to try new dishes often.

In order to be successful at freezing food, you need a few key things:

  • The right tools
  • Knowledge of how to freeze food
  • Knowledge of how long frozen foods keep
  • Menu planning

Today I’ll cover the tools and freezing meat. Tomorrow I’ll post on freezing stock, sauces, produce, and desserts, how long frozen food keeps, and what not to freeze.

Tools for Freezing Food

In order to successfully freeze food, you need several tools to ensure that you freeze it properly, know what’s in the freezer, and know how long it’s been there.

You’ll need:

  • Sheet pans in a couple sizes
  • Resealable freezer bags – quart and gallon
  • Masking tape
  • Fine point Sharpie
  • Ice cube trays
  • Parchment paper

With those tools, you can begin to explore the joys of freezing food. A note on the resealable bags: I’ve tried both the store brand and the Ziploc brand and I found that the Ziploc really is better. It seals better and is less prone to leaks. If you want to be frugal, you can wash and reuse them a few times. I recommend watching the newspaper for coupons and the store for a sale and then combining the two. With that method, you can usually get the Ziplocs for same price or less than the store brand price.

Freezing Meat

I buy chicken and most fish already frozen from Trader Joe’s. They employ a method called “quick freezing” which freezes them in individual pieces to lock in freshness. Once I get them home, I’ll divide the fish into smaller bags, enough for one meal in each one. The chicken comes in a large resealable bag, so I just toss that in the freezer and remove the pieces as I need them. For meat I buy fresh, like ground beef or chops, I’ll divide the package up before I freeze it for easier defrosting and portion control.

Meat Shelf of the Freezer

As you can see, I have several packages of meat of several varieties. I note the date, food, and weight on each package with a Sharpie (label the bag before you put in the food or the ink won’t stick.) Then I use each meat within three months of putting it in the freezer. Each week, I first check the freezer to see what I have on hand that needs to be used, then I begin my menu planning and grocery list.

You can freeze just about any meat, including bacon. I used to wrap a few slices of bacon in foil and freeze the packages, then I discovered flat freezing. Simply cover a baking sheet in parchment paper (wax paper gets too wet) and arrange the bacon in a single layer. Set in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then place the frozen slices in a resealable Ziploc. It defrosts in a flash. I usually just cook it from frozen.

You can do the same for hamburger patties, meatballs, and other prepared meats. Because they’re frozen before you put them in a freezer bag, they won’t stick together. I usually freeze meat raw and then cook it after it’s defrosted to preserve flavor.

You can use the packages fresh meat came in if you’re only freezing it for a few days (for example, if you bought it Saturday and aren’t using it until Friday), but you should transfer it to a freezer bag for longer storage. Plastic trays and wrap from the store isn’t designed for long-term storage and won’t protect the food. They also take up a lot of space.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for more freezer tips!

Comments

2 Responses to “The Joys of Freezing Food”

  1. Carrie on February 12th, 2008 12:25 pm

    I like to keep as much as I can in the freezer too. Thanks for these great tips.

    Carrie
    http://www.CarriesCooking.com

  2. Babicha on July 1st, 2015 10:09 pm

    Global warming does not mean we are going to have hotetr summers and colder winters it means we are going to have more severe weather patterns, flooding etc, the global tempeture is still on the rise, i dont think people realise how bad things are there are marine life at there maximum tempature tollerece as it is most are micro organisims which are essential in keeping the balance of food and filtering the ocean water, the melting of polar ice is not just going to cause flooding its going to bring the oceans currents to a standstill when that happens its game over, i think its funny that people thing we can prevent this or actually think we have control, its simple we have destroyed this climate and mother nature will balance it out whatever the cost us we forget we are all just guests here.earth will still be here long after we are all gone

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