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Time-saving freezing tips

Article by: Allrecipes staff  |  Picture by: Allrecipes
Time-saving freezing tips
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When the work week gets a little crazy, home-cooked meals made in advance are a true life saver! Learn how to freeze with ease with these stress-busting tips.

Why freeze?

Save time When pressed for time, you'll thank yourself when you have a wholesome, home-cooked dish in the freezer that simply needs to thaw or bake off in the oven with little or no prep necessary.

Save money Freezing is also a great money-saver. Say you've found some tomatoes on offer at the supermarket. Take advantage by whipping up a big batch of pasta sauce and freezing in meal-sized portions. You'll be saving money in the long run, and feeding your family from scratch, too!

Save waste Likewise, freezing is a great way to prevent waste. Whether you've got ingredients about to spoil, or a glut of veg from the garden - making and freezing ensures that you use up what you have before it meets the bin.

Know before you freeze

Before freezing cooked food, it's important to let it cool down. Heat will raise the temperature of the freezer and the food will not freeze uniformly.

A few things to keep in mind:
  • Cool precooked dishes as quickly as possible before they are placed in the freezer.
  • For fastest cooling, place the pan of hot food in an ice water bath - either in the sink or in a larger pan. If you're cooling a soup, stew or sauce, stir occasionally to help it cool evenly.
  • Once the dish is cooled, portion it into meal-sized containers. Label and date the containers so you're never left wondering 'What IS this?'. Place them in a single layer in the coldest area of your freezer until completely frozen. Rearrange as necessary.
Freezing tips

Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and taking on unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Follow these simple wrapping and container tips to ensure the quality and safety of your food:
  • Use specialty freezer cling film and/or bags: they should be both moisture-proof and odor-proof.
  • Leave as little air as possible in the bags and containers. When freezing liquids in containers, allow a small amount of head room for expansion. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before closing.
  • Wrap solid foods like meats and baked goods tightly in aluminium foil before you bag them.
  • In many cases, meats and fish wrapped by the butcher or fishmonger need no extra attention before freezing. However, meat and fish wrapped in plastic trays from the supermarket are best re-wrapped at home, as they'll be susceptible to freezer burn and will not hold up well to freezing.
  • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-litre capacity to ensure that freezing takes place in a timely manner (ie within four hours). Food that is 5cm (2 in) thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.
  • When storing foods long-term, the freezer should be set at -18 degrees C.
Use by guidelines

Although freezing keeps food safe for an indefinite amount of time, eventually the flavour will be affected. If the food is obviously damaged (shrivelled, with white or frosty spots) it should be discarded.

This chart lists recommended storage times for popular precooked foods like pies, soups, lasagne, as well as some raw foods, to ensure high-quality results:

Tomato / vegetable sauces 6 months
Soups and stews 2 to 3 months
Lasagne and pasta bakes 6 months
Meatloaf, meatballs and burgers 6 months
Pies and pasties 6 months
Poultry (cooked, no gravy or sauce) 3 months
Poultry (cooked, with gravy or sauce)   5 to 6 months
Uncooked pizza dough 3 to 4 weeks
Bread and muffins 2 to 3 months
Un-iced cakes 6 months
Iced cakes 3 months
Raw meats 1 year
Cured meats 1 month
Thawing frozen foods

With the exception of muffins, breads and other baked goods, do not thaw foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared foods, potentially making it unsafe to eat even after cooking.

To ensure that your food is safe to eat, follow one of these proper ways to thaw:

In the refrigerator: This is the slowest but safest thawing technique. Small frozen items might thaw in a few hours, while larger items will take significantly longer - overnight and then some.

In cold water: Place the frozen food in a leak-proof bag and place in a large container or sink of cold water.

In a microwave on the defrost setting: Plan to cook the food immediately after it has thawed in a microwave, because some areas of the food might have begun cooking during the defrost cycle.

For more ideas...

Check out our Freezer friendly recipe collection for loads of time-saving recipes!
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