For many Canadians, home freezers are little more than graveyards where food goes to be temporarily forgotten and eventually thrown out. This is sad news. Home freezers can be a treasure trove of dinner solutions for busy people if they are used appropriately.
Baffled by what I’m saying? Consider these tips that will make your freezer the most important appliance you own:
• In a flash: Freezing food quickly at as low a temperature as possible minimizes ice crystal formation that can damage foods and makes them lose moisture when thawed. So, spread items such as grilled chicken breasts, marinated steaks and such on wax paper-lined trays and freeze for 20 to 30 minutes. Once surface frozen, quickly transfer food to labeled freezer containers and return to the freezer. Not only will the textures of foods frozen this way be better, but removing single portions will be possible, too.
• Keep cool, baby: The quality of frozen foods suffers if the food is not kept solidly frozen. To maintain temperature don’t open the freezer door more frequently than necessary. Likewise, add items to the freezer in small batches so that the internal temperature of the chest doesn’t increase because too many warm items have been introduced at one time.
• Label everything: Trust me on this one. I grew up living with a mother who never labeled but loved to use her freezer. Despite her best intentions she never remembered what was in each package. The result was a series of wacky culinary episodes that saw her make pies out of perogi dough (dental disaster!) and desserts out of beets (okay, so frozen they do look a little like raspberries).
• Snug fit: Pack items to be frozen snugly into appropriate containers. If using lidded containers to hold liquidy foods, leave a 1/2-inch (1 cm) headspace to allow for expansion. Otherwise, airtight is the rule since excess air inside the container can result in freezer burn (a slow patchy drying of food as surface moisture vaporizes in the cold) which causes detrimental changes in texture, nutrient content and taste.
• The right stuff: Choose appropriate freezer storage containers for freezing. Bread bags, wax paper, thin plastic wrap and flimsy deli containers are not recommended for freezer use because they let in too much oxygen.
Test Kitchen Tip:
Tip: If you plan to freeze meals often, invest in a vacuum sealer like the the hand-held Vacu–Seal jobby.
When’s the last time you organized your freezer?