Freezing is one of the simplest food preservation methods, and it’s open to almost all of us. But it’s not always as easy as throwing any food you make straight into the freezer. Here’s some advice on how to freeze food properly.
What is freezing?
You probably already know what freezing technically is: it’s making the food so cold that any water in it turns into ice. It doesn’t completely destroy bacteria – if food has been contaminated with something dangerous then freezing won’t make it safe – but it prevents organisms from multiplying and spoiling the food.
Is it healthy to freeze food?
Yes! Freezing food is a great way to lock in nutrients and reduce waste but there are a few things to be aware of. Certain foods freeze better than others and prolonged freezing can affect the quality or texture of food. No frozen food lasts forever so you’ll still need to consider when it is safe to eat your frozen meals.
Meals you can freeze
The benefits of freezing food are that your food will last much longer, and you’ll be able to prepare meals long in advance. However, it’s important to remember that not all foods are suited to freezing. If you’re considering whether to freeze a specific thing, here’s a quick guide on the meals you can freeze and those you can’t.
You CAN freeze:
- Raw meat: most examples can be frozen without any impact on their taste or texture when they’re eventually thawed and cooked.
- Cooked meat: although this can become slightly dry in the freezer you can try freezing them with sauce or gravy to help avoid this.
- Bread: wrap it in plastic or foil and pop it in the freezer to stop it from going stale then just defrost as much as you need each day. Most toasters have a “defrost” setting.
You MAY be able to freeze:
- Soup: not all varieties freeze as well as others – creamy soups tend to separate while pasta or noodle soups lose some of their texture so avoid these when making your own soup-based freezer meals.
- Dairy products: creams and soft cheeses tend not to freeze well.
- Fresh vegetables: some vegetables, such as broccoli, need to be blanched before freezing in order to avoid loss of texture. Buy frozen vegetables if you’re worried.
- Pasta dishes: pasta will become softer if it’s frozen and warmed up, so it’s best to make your pasta slightly firmer than usual if you’re planning to freeze a pasta dish.
- Rice dishes: as with pasta, white rice can become softer if frozen. Keep rice fairly firm before freezing and always freeze rice dishes as soon as possible after preparing them (but not while they’re still hot!).
You CAN'T freeze:
- Fresh fruit: they often become mushy when they’re thawed which is fine if you intend to make smoothies but not so great if you intend to eat them whole. freezing cooked food.
- Deep-fried food: although freezing cooked food is common, for anything deep-fried it will cause it to lose all its crispness.
- Eggs in the shell: they’ll expand and crack the shell as they freeze.
- Canned goods: freezing can cause the contents to expand and break the can. Canned goods tend to last a long time anyway so there’s no reason to put them in the freezer.
Freezing food tips
Now that you know the basic dos and don’ts of freezing food, let’s look at a few other top tips:
- Put food in an airtight container or wrap it in plastic or foil before freezing. Food can lose a lot of its moisture if it’s exposed to the air as it freezes.
- Don’t put food in the freezer while it’s still hot or it’ll warm up the inside of the freezer and may affect your other frozen foods.
- Leave extra space in containers when freezing liquids. Liquids expand as they freeze, and this expansion might break the container if you fill it to the brim.
- Don’t overpack your freezer or your food will freeze more slowly. Freezing food quickly will preserve quality better.
- Buy pre-frozen fruit and vegetables instead of freezing at home. Commercial freezing is generally better at preserving the taste and texture than household so you may enjoy better results.
- Clearly label your frozen food with a use-by date. Frozen food won’t stay good forever so always double-check how long a dish can be kept in the freezer.
If you’re planning to freeze something specific, it’s often worth looking for specialised advice, but the above tips should give you some idea of what you can and can’t freeze. Enjoy your meal!