Freezing Cooked Food: Tips and Tricks

Article by: Allrecipes  |  Picture by: Linda
Freezing Cooked Food: Tips and Tricks
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Freezing home cooked meals is a money saver, a health saver - and when you're in the middle of a crazy week - a life saver! Here's some great tips for helping you take full advantage of your freezer.

What cooked food is good to freeze?
  • Pasta sauces. You can take advantage of in season veggies to make pasta sauces in bulk.
  • Soups and Stews. Freeze these as meals as well as individual portions for work lunches. Stock is also perfect to freeze - either in ice cube trays or in 2-3 cup portions.
  • Meatballs, rissoles and patties.
  • Pies and sausage rolls. Great for unexpected visitors or an anytime snack.
  • Cooked Chicken. Can be used again on its own or in a sauce, soup or stew.
  • Cooked cakes, biscuits, bread and muffins. Bake a little extra each time you bake and you'll always have some rescue cake on hand. Uncooked biscuit dough also freezes well.
  • Know before you Freeze
    You must let hot food cool down before you freeze. Heat will not only affect the ability of the food to freeze uniformly but also could raise the temperature of your freezer.
  • Cool precooked dishes as quickly as possible before they are placed in the freezer.
  • For fastest cooling, place the pot 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 later.
  • Freezing Tips
    Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Follow these simple wrapping and container tips to ensure the quality and safety of your food:
  • If you can, use freezer bags or wrap; they will be stronger and more odor proof.
  • 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 meat and cakes tightly in alfoil before you bag them.
  • In most cases, raw meat wrapped by the butcher should be fine to freeze as is. However, supermarket meat in plastic trays should be bagged or wrapped out of the tray.
  • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-litre capacity to ensure that freezing takes place within four hours. Food that is 5cm thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.
  • When storing foods long-term, the freezer should be set at -18 degrees C.
  • Vacuum Sealers
    It's worth investing in a vacuum sealer if you plan to do a lot of freezing. they're not that expensive and will be better for your food, your freezer and save you heaps of time.
    How long can I freeze food for?

    Tomato / vegetable sauces 6 months
    Soups and stews 2 to 3 months
    Lasagne and pasta bakes 6 months
    Meatloaf, meatballs and patties 6 months
    Pies and sausage rolls 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 meat 1 year
    Cured meat 1 month
    Thawing frozen food

    With the exception of muffins, cakes and other baked goods, don't thaw food at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared food, potentially making it unsafe to eat even after cooking.

    An exception here is frozen stock - you can put that straight into the pot in which you are cooking the soup, stew, risotto liquid or whatever you are using it for. To ensure that your food is safe to eat, follow one of these thawing techniques:

    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 or longer.

    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 Freezing Ideas
    Check out our collection of recipes to freeze.
    Also check out our How to Freeze Fruit and Vegetables article.
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