The freezer…it’s one of our valuable inventions, revolutionising the way we live. But there is more to the art of freezing than you think. By understanding how to best use your freezer you can save money, eat better, and minimise food wastage. Ready to learn how? Featuring handy tips, tricks and hacks, this article is the freezing bible you can’t do without.
FREEZING 101 – HOW IT WORKS
Freezing food significantly extends its lifespan, giving you greater meal choice, flexibility and variety. It enables you to stock up on healthy, nutritious food, and plan your meals in advance. Where fresh food may last 3-7 days in the fridge, freezing it can extend its life by 3-12 months!
So, how does a freezer really work? When the temperature of your food drops below freezing point, water is replaced with ice crystals. Your food enters a state of hibernation (at approximately -15°C and -18°C) where everything, including dangerous bacteria, stops growing. Your freezer should be set to around -17 degrees C (0 degrees F) for optimum freezing results.
Here is an approximate guide for food freezing times:
- Raw meat (e.g. steak, chops etc) – Up to 12 months
- Fish and seafood – Up to 6 months
- Left-over dinners (e.g. casseroles, stews, pasta) – Depends what it is, but usually up to 3-4 months is fine
- Processed meats (e.g. bacon, sausages, mince, burgers etc) – Up to 3 months
- Bread and buns – Less than 1 month.
WHAT FOODS DON’T FREEZE WELL
Although the freezing process doesn’t change the taste of food, its altered water particles may affect the texture, consistency and integrity of some foods. In addition, some foods may feel different in your mouth or fall apart when you defrost them.
The general rule is that foods with a high-water content don’t freeze well. These are some common foods that we would recommend against freezing:
- Dairy products (e.g. milk, cream and yoghurt) can curdle when defrosting. Also avoid foods that include dairy in them (e.g. a soup containing coconut milk).
- Eggs (and egg-based sauces like mayonnaise) cannot be frozen. Whole eggs crack due to the water expansion of the molecules and hard-boiled eggs go rubbery. However, egg whites can be stored, frozen and thawed for later use.
- Some vegetables (e.g. cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts, radishes and celery) can become mushy when thawed as the water expands and damages the cell structure of the food.
- Jam is unable to be frozen as the sugar breaks down and the jam turns runny and watery when thawed.
LET’S TALK LET THEM EAT
There are some foods in the Let Them Eat menu that we’d recommend eating fresh and not freezing. Here is a list of our most popular foods and whether they can be frozen.
|Curried Chickpea Burger (gf, vgn)||No||Fragile – crumbles on defrost.|
|Fritters – all flavours
· Broccoli & Haloumi Fritter
· Sweetcorn & Feta Fritter
· Kimchi & Sweet Potato Fritter (vgn)
|Hand Rolled Falafel (gf, vgn)||Yes|
|Middle Eastern Cauliflower Fritter (gf, vgn)||Yes||Fragile|
|Sweet Potato & Baked Ricotta Pie (gf)||No||Texture and taste changes on defrost|
|Mexican Black Bean Burger (gf, vgn)||No||Fragile – crumbles on defrost.|
|Sesame Crusted Tofu Burger (gf, vgn)||No||Fragile – crumbles on defrost.|
|Arancini – all flavours
· Pumpkin & Feta
· Mushroom, Parmesan & Mozzarella
· Roasted Tomato & Basil Pesto
|Lentil & Whipped Potato Pie||No||Becomes mushy|
|Salads (all)||No||Makes salads mushy and inedible|
|Pumpkin & Red Lentil Lasagne||Yes|
|Mac & Not Cheese w jalapeno (vgn, nuts)||No||Fragile – crumbles on defrost.|
· Mushroom & Caraway (vgn)
· Cauliflower Cheese
· Mushroom Moussaka (vgn)
· Pasty (vgn)
· Yellow Curry (vgn)
· Spinach w Ratatouille & Baked Ricotta
|No||Yellow curry crepes cannot be frozen|
|Tarts – all flavours
· Leek & Gruyere
· Sweet Potato & Goats Cheese
· Roasted Carrot & Garlic (gf)
|Balsamic Onion Jam||Yes||Two-month shelf life refrigerated so may not require freezing|
|Dips||Yes||Stir well after defrosting|
10 FREEZER TIPS AND TRICKS YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN EARLIER
Here are some of our freezer tips and tricks from our Head Chef, and food guru, Tanya.
- Use air-tight containers that are freezer-safe (check when you are buying them that they are made to withstand freezing temperatures).
- Freeze food as soon as you know you aren’t going to eat it in time. They will come out as fresh as you freeze them. Make sure you divide your food (e.g. soups, stews and raw meat) into individual (or double) potions to avoid waste.
- Avoid freezing food again once it’s been thawed. It’s best to only freeze once.
- Any raw food that has been taken out of the fridge and reached more than 5 degrees C may trigger bacteria growth and should be discarded and not frozen.
- Cooked foods such as pasta bakes, soups and casseroles can be cooled down to room temperature (for no more than 2 hours) and then frozen. Never pop hot foods in the freezer as it can breed bacteria when cooling down, as well as warm up other foods in the freezer which can cause them to become unsafe.
- Wrap meat such as sausages, steaks and chops in a double layer of plastic wrap or freezer bags, and freeze. Do not leave them in the supermarket wrapping as it can lead to freezer burn due to trapped oxygen in the packaging.
- Never use glass in the freezer as it can crack when subject to rapid changes in temperature. Instead use freezer bags, plastic wrap and air-tight containers (but avoid sandwich bags). Use baking or freezer paper between foods when stacking in air-tight containers.
- Remove as much air as possible from your bags before popping them into the freezer. An easy way to do this is to hold the bag in your fist, loosen your grip, place your mouth over the whole and inhale to extract the oxygen in the bag.
- Prepare your veggies before popping them into the freezer to save time. For example, cut your broccoli into florets, peel carrots, deseed capsicum, cut mango into chunks, dice herbs, grate cheese etc. You can even freeze bananas. Their skins will go black, but the banana inside will be perfectly preserved.
- Always label your food with the contents and date it was frozen to avoid confusion. A permanent freezer marker is recommended.
DID YOU KNOW:
The taste of some spices and seasonings is changed through the freezing process. For example, celery seasoning becomes stronger, curry can develop a musty-off flavour, onion and paprika change flavour, and pepper, cloves, imitation vanilla and garlic get stronger and bitter after freezing.