The Ultimate Guide to Freezer Cooking (Part I)

The Internet is full of links and recommendations for freezer cooking, but it can be overwhelming trying to sort through it all. Today we break it down for you step by step. Be prepared for lots of ideas, tips and recipes!

My Freezer

Photo: Taz on Flickr

But first, what is freezer cooking?

Freezer cooking is when you cook a meal, or parts of a meal specifically for the freezer. On a busy night some day in the future, you can enjoy a homemade meal without all the fuss of putting it together when you’re exhausted. Typically more than one meal is made at the same time so you can use the same ingredients helping to cut costs and prep time. However, you can also just double up on a single recipe that you’re making for a meal and freeze half of it for later.

Freezer meals can be used in a variety of situations. They make great gifts and come in handy when guests come visiting or you can also use them when you just don’t feel like cooking (it’s okay, we all get those kind of days). The whole process can be as intense as you want it to be. Just a meal or two every weekend to stock the freezer, or if you’re feeling really ambitious, cook for the whole month in a day.

What to Freeze?

Not all foods are created equal in the freezer. Some love the freezer, others, not so much. When designing your meal, these foods are best for the freezer:

To Freeze or Not Freeze

Additional tips on what to freeze

  • Soups & stews – Avoid any recipes with potatoes or pasta in them when freezing. If you want to add these, include them during the reheating process. Another option, instead of making the whole meal and then freezing it, prepare each of the individual ingredients and package them together to put into a slow cooker.
  • Meats – Both raw and cooked meats are great for the freezer. Add extra flavor to your raw meats by freezing them with the marinade right in the bag. As they defrost, they will marinate saving you time.
  • Cookies & other baked goods – These can be frozen before or after they’ve been baked. If you’re baking from a frozen state, add additional baking time to the recipe.
  • Breads – Have breads sliced before your put them in the freezer. It makes it easier to just pull out what you need without having to defrost the rest. All you have to do is pop it into the toaster.
  • Fruit – Defrosted fruit will not retain the same texture as fresh, so it is not recommended to freeze fruit for eating later. However, if you’ll be using them for smoothies or in recipes, they’re great. Fruits with high water content, such as melons and apples, will not defrost well either.
  • Vegetables – Similar to fruits, avoid those with high water content. Chop them up for easy???
  • Dairy products – Avoid trying to freeze dairy products as they tend to change in texture (in an unappealing way) or separate during the defrosting process. Avoid mayonnaise, yogurt, and sour cream. Cheese can become crumbly and be difficult to slice. However, you can freeze cheese that has been grated or that you will be melting.
  • Casseroles – These are great for the freezer. Just be careful of freezing any that have a bread crumb topping as they tend to get soggy. You’re better off adding this in when you’re reheating your meal.

Containers

Now that you know what types of foods work best for the freezer, it is also important to store your foods correctly. There are a number of options for long term storage.

Freezer storage

  • Foil baking dishes – You can freeze your food in baking dishes, but if you don’t have that many, foil baking pans work just as well. You can typically get a couple of uses out of them if you like.
  • Freezer bags – Plastic freezer bags are very useful. Get them in a variety of sizes. You can use the large ones for things like soups and stews and the smaller ones for individually packaged ingredients and combine them together in another large bag.
  • Food storage containers – Plastic storage containers are also useful. They’re sturdy and can be easily reusable, but they’re also inexpensive in case you do need to dispose of one.
  • Smaller containers – Ice cube trays and muffin tins can be used to freeze individual portions. For example, you can freeze raw muffin batter right in the tin, pop them out once frozen, and store in a larger plastic container or freezer bag. When ready to eat, just pop them back into the tray and let defrost first or bake for 5-7 minutes extra. The ice cube tray can be used in a similar manner with sauces such as pesto or tomato paste or marinades and herbs.
  • Other – Additional items you will need are sharpies for labeling, and aluminum foil for wrapping stuff up.

Now that you know what to freeze and what materials to use, check out part two of this guide for how to do it and meal suggestions.

Do you use your freezer? What kinds of food do you like to freeze?

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