Being able to freeze food, whether uncooked or cooked, is a great way to save on time, money and food waste. Whether that’s buying meat in bulk to cook later or preparing a week’s meals a head of time. However knowing how to freeze food safely and properly is just as important as being resourceful! So here’s a round up of the most common freezer related food questions.
Does cooked food need to be cooled down before freezing?
Yes!! To keep food safe and prevent bacteria from growing, it’s best to cool freshly cooked dishes quickly before freezing. Putting warm food straight in the freezer can increase the freezer temperature. This can cause surrounding frozen items to partially thaw and refreeze, changing the taste and texture of your food.
So how do you cool hot food quickly?
The best way is to use an ice bath. Put your container of hot food in a shallow dish of ice. Then stir the food every 10 to 15 minutes to distribute the heat to the cold areas so the food cools down evenly. As the ice starts to melt, drain some of the water off and add more ice. You can monitor the food with a thermometer. Once your food has reached 4° C (40° F) it is now safe to put it in the fridge or freezer.
What’s the best way of packaging food to store in the freezer?
When packaging food for the freezer, the most important thing is to protect it from exposure to air. This prevents the food becoming damaged from freezer burn. For example; wrap meats very tightly in either plastic wrap or freezer paper, pressing the wrapping right up against the surface of the meat. Next, wrap another layer of aluminum foil around the meat or seal it inside a zip-lock freezer bag.
The best types of packaging to freeze food include wrap, such as aluminium foil, paper, or plastic wrap. These help protect food from exposure to the colder air inside the freezer. You could also use zip-lock freezer bags, plastic food safe containers with lids and glass jars, bowls or containers with plastic lids. A vacuum sealer is also an very effective way of storing food in the freezer as it removes all air & moisture, and so will extend the freshness of food.
What is freezer burn?
Freezer burn is when frozen food becomes damaged, from drying out and chemically breaking down, due to air reaching the food. It is generally caused by food not being securely wrapped in air-tight packaging.
Can you still eat food affected by freezer burn?
Yes the food is still safe to eat but make sure to cut away the freezer-burned portions because they will be dried out and tasteless.
What about frozen food such as fish fingers. Once it’s open how do you protect the contents from freezer burn? I put them in a zip lock bag, is that ok?
Food that has been opened is best protected from freezer burn by limiting its exposure to the air in the freezer. One way is to wrap the food item in plastic wrap first and then seal it in a zip lock freezer bag or other container, making sure to remove as much air as possible. A freezer bag on its own is not recommended as packaging for food that will be frozen for more than a day or two. The film in the plastic is actually permeable to the gases in the air and so the food may be affected by freezer burn long term.
What is the safest way to thaw frozen food?
It is advised that you don’t leave frozen food to thaw outside the fridge at room temperature. This is because the outside of the food can warm above 5ºC which will allow food poisoning bacteria to grow.
Thaw meat and other foods in the bottom of the fridge whenever possible.
If you need to thaw food immediately, do it in the microwave or, as a last resort, under cool running water (with the food wrapped or packaged).
Do thawed cooked foods need to be re-heated before eating or can they be eaten cold? Is it different for meat vs veges vs fruit vs baked goods?
All cooked foods can be eaten cold after properly defrosting it, whether cooked meat, vegetables, fruit or baked goods.
Can you re-freeze thawed food?
Only refreeze food if you’re cooking it in between. When food is thawed bacteria can multiply quickly, particularly at room temperature. If you put it back in the freezer, the bacteria survives and are more likely to reach harmful levels on the second thawing.
However if you cook the food in between thawing and then refreezing, it’s not a problem as the bacteria will have been killed off in the cooking process. For example; thawing raw beef mince, cooking a bolognese sauce with it and then freezing.
What foods don’t freeze well?
- Raw eggs in the shells will expand and crack.
- Hard-boiled eggs go rubbery.
- Vegetables with a high water content, such as lettuce, and cucumber, go limp and mushy.
- Soft herbs, like parsley and basil are fine for using in cooking but won’t be suitable for garnishes.
- Egg-based sauces, such as mayonnaise, will separate and curdle.
- Plain yogurt, low-fat cream cheese, single cream and cottage cheese go watery.