End freezer abuse

PastaFor 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?


5 Responses to End freezer abuse

  1. Kathryn says:

    I seem to have been on a major, but unplanned, clean-up this year. In January, I cleaned out the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, but the small chest freezer is calling out to me. Sadly, both freezers are partial graveyards. I have put a number of items into the green recycling so far.

  2. danamccauley says:

    Way to go! I hate wasting food but having a usable freezer is so much better than a hoare frost covered wasteland.

    Today I’m making a triple batch of pizza sauce and plan to pack and label it for the freezer. Feels great!

  3. Ruth says:

    I only wish my freezer were bigger! I only have the fridge/freezer combo and there’s never enough room.

    I like to store my nuts (keeps them fresh longer) as well as stocks in 1-2 cup portions in baggies….left over tomato sauce or chipotle chilis in adobo mashed and frozen in 1 tbsp portions. So sometimes I don’t have enough room for left overs!

    Great tips though, thanks for sharing.

  4. danamccauley says:

    I know the feeling. In some ways having less space makes you use it wisely — you don’t toss stuff in the freezer for years if you need the space.

    Your tips are excellent. Another I like is to use ice cube trays for storying things such as the chilis you mention and tomato paste, pesto, etc… then you have 2 tbsp (30 mL) that you can add to a soup, stew or sauce any old time. I usually transfer the cubes to zip lock bags once frozen so that I can use the trays for other stuff

  5. Love the entry. Keep up the good work! Thanks!

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