Have you ever froze something to later find out when you take it out of the freezer it has freezer burn or did not stay as fresh as when you froze it????
The problem is not your freezer it is how you froze it to begin with and with proper freezing techniques you can have that corn you grew 2 summers ago taste as if you just picked it. Maybe you made enough gravy over thanksgiving you can actually freeze it for next year at thanksgiving and it will taste like you just made it that day.
Maybe you want a jump on a huge dinner party and have all your foods prepared ahead of time and all you have to do is thaw and reheat the day you need it. The perfect party without all the hassle and time saved??? Yep, that is what I am talking about 🙂
Freezing properly is the key to saving money and time. Giving you the freedom in the kitchen or in your pocket book either way it is the answer to the equation in the kitchen. Having the right tools also will make your freezing job easier and more efficient with the greatest final result, and that final result??? Well of course, it is the taste of the food even a year later or longer.
In my recipes, I will always let you know at what step is the best time to freeze them so remember this post since you may come back to it often.
Let us first cover proper freezers and for what purpose they should be used.
We all have the everyday refrigerator that has the freezer on top or on the bottom. These types are typically self-defrosting also called frost-free or auto-defrost, and made for short term freezing. They are specifically made for products that you will use within 6 to 8 months. Most people do not follow this but that is truly what they are made for. The self-defrosting feature causes the temperature to fluctuate between freezing and that of thawing, “self-defrosting” That is why foods kept frozen in these freezers for longer than recommended times will form ice crystals and then you end up with freezer burn and overall degraded taste. The tips in this post will help keep those negatives from happening but remember to keep in mind what this type of freezer is for.
Chest and Upright Freezers:
These are specifically made for long term freezing and come with the self-defrosting feature but also without it. Having self-defrosting can be convenient but it is not what you want when thinking of freezing foods for the long term. Using upright and chest freezers with Manual defrost is more cost efficient and will keep your foods longer especially when adding proper packaging prior to freezing. You can make foods last up to 2 years or longer.
All the work you placed into a garden during the summer can last you all winter and into the next summer. Not only are you saving money but you are eating healthy as well. Cooking for the future is a HUGE time saver and that is where these freezers really pay off.
Making multiple meals ahead frees your time up during the week.
What You Will Need:
This is a list of many items you may need depending on what you have available in your kitchen.
- Vacuum Sealer with 8 inch and 11 inch Rolls
(Both sizes are good to have for smaller items and larger items)
- Plastic Wrap (if you do not have a vacuum sealer)
- Freezer Bags (if you do not have a vacuum sealer)
Do not use the regular plastic bags they are not thick enough or made to tolerate freezer temperatures.
- Plastic Containers with Tight Fitting Lids (for liquids)
- Wax Paper
- Scissors (Depending on if you have a sealer with a cutter or not)
- Heavy Duty Foil (if you do not have vacuum sealer)
- Sharpie or Magic Marker
- Blank Freezer Labels (optional)
This is a vacuum sealer and is probably the best invention since the freezer. If you do not have one yet, I will be giving you alternate methods below but trust me when I say, you really need to add this little gadget to your must have list. It removes air from the equation which, as we all know, is the main culprit in spoiling foods. When you remove the air gaps around the food, it removes the chances of ice crystal formation and increases the time a product can be frozen for. The only set back this machine has can easily be fixed and will be discussed below so let’s get to freezing 🙂
Portion foods to be frozen according to how you want to use them.
1. Individual Meal Size
2. Family Meal Size
3. Precut and portioned for cooking
4. Large Event Planning
If using the vacuum sealer you want to cut your bags accordingly to size needed and seal one side. When cutting the length of the bag, always leave enough space especially if you plan to reseal it after removing some of the frozen food. Example, Broccoli, carrots, individual meat pieces and any foods you do not plan on using the entire bag of contents. When I purchase frozen vegetables I always take them out of the bags they come in and re-seal them with my vacuum sealer, they last and store longer. I just leave enough leader bag for multiple opening and re-sealing.
If using the plastic wrap method, you still want to portion your sizes according to individual size portions. They freeze better this way and reduce the risks of forming the ice crystals and allow for longer freezing times.
Let’s do the plastic wrap method first.
You will want to use wax paper over the food prior to wrapping in plastic wrap and be sure to have the wax side touching the food for easier removal later on thawing. First wrap the food with wax paper then cover with plastic wrap, press out the air and cover tightly. Place a second layer of plastic wrap and again tightly. Be sure the plastic wrap covers the entire piece you are covering.
After you have 3 or 4 portions ready, Use the gallon size freezer plastic bag and place as many wrapped pieces in the bag allowing you to comfortably press excess air out while sealing the top of the bag. If you do not have the gallon sized freezer bags, then you would use a nice piece of heavy duty foil and wrap each piece with foil and seal the ends.
With the marker on the gallon bag you can write the contents, date, and how many portions.
You can use Blank Freezer Labels as well for this purpose. Or write on the outside of the foil.
With the vacuum sealer, you again would already have your portions ready and the difference is, you just place them in the sealer bag you have pre-cut and use the vacuum unless you want to be able to take out portions and re-seal. If you plan to re-seal, place the portions in wax paper as stated above and place in the bag to keep them from freezing together then simple remove the air with the vacuum sealer. Remember if you plan to re-seal allow enough lead bag for this purpose. With the marker place the contents. date and portions on the bag. If you have large amounts such as for a party or event, the vacuum sealer is an excellent choice.
What if you have liquids???? Vacuum sealers have one drawback and liquids getting into your sealer machine can damage the unit. The company invented containers for this issue but to me, they are way over priced and never big enough. This is where the plastic containers come in.
Place the liquids such as soups, gravy’s, sauces or anything that contains liquid into the plastic containers and place a piece of plastic wrap so that it touches the contents and then lid it as shown below. This stops air gaps and ice from forming while freezing. Place in the freezer overnight.
The next day, fill your sink with very hot water but not all the way up you only want to cover the bottom portion of the plastic containers and up to the level of the contents. Place the frozen containers in the sink of hot water with the lids still on. Only long enough to thaw the outside of the container to the point of being able to slide out the frozen disk as shown. Usually, if your water is hot enough. It should take only 3-5 minutes and you would be able to turn out the frozen disk.
If you are using plastic wrap method:
Work fast here once that disk is removable, have a piece of plastic wrap ready once you slide the frozen disk out and place it on the plastic wrap. Add another layer of plastic and wrap tightly and then place in a gallon size freezer bag. Push out the air. Label and freeze. They will stack neatly in the freezer. Do not use foil in this application since when thawing the plastic bag will hold the contents better.
The vacuum method works the same way only no need for the plastic wrap. Just simply place the frozen disk in the bag and vacuum seal, date and write the contents on the outside of the bag.
When labeling, remember how you are going to place the items in the freezer. I have an upright freezer so I want to be able to read it from any angle. I write on the top and sides. If you have a chest freezer this is even more important since it is harder to see. Always keep this simple step in mind when labeling your contents.
Doing these simple steps and even if you do not have a vacuum sealer, you will extend the life of your frozen foods by following the above suggestions. Happy freezing 🙂 I love it!! Having a full freezer stocked properly saves me time and money every day and it will do the same for you too.