Here are some handy-dandy freezing and storage tips!
- Freezer storage bags, plastic ware and freezer paper are always the best products to use when freezing your food.
- Did you know that freezer burn is caused by exposure to the air and this in minimized when using plastic bags/containers? It's because of their resistance to air and moisture penetration.
- Lay the storage bag flat for heavy items such as steak for easier sealing.
- Use a large bowl/saucepan or get someone to help you when pouring liquids into storage bags. Or, you can first seal the bag to within 1 inch of the edge, insert a funnel, pour & seal. After sealing, lay flat on cookie sheet for a more even freeze and better storage.
- Remove as much air as possible when storing food products. When using plastic bags, secure along top (zipper) almost to the end (leaving enough room to insert a straw). Use a straw in the opening and suck out all the air you can or squeeze out the remaining air to minimize the risk of freezer burn.
- Always date your frozen food! Use a permanent marker on the outside of your storage bag. Use masking tape on the outside of a plastic container or on the outside of the storage bag if you cannot use a permanent marker.
- Meat: Freeze individual steaks and chops or group them into meal size quantities. Slip a roast into a bag. Freeze individual hamburger patties in bags or multiple patties in a large plastic container with freezer paper or wax paper between patties. Freeze meal-sized portions for ease of use. Pour a marinade over the meat before freezing to tenderize and add ultimate flavor! I'll buy manager's special meat and prepare/freeze the product as soon as I get home. Buy a large package of ground meat and divide into individual 1lb packages to make it easier when cooking.
- Poultry: Always wash poultry and pat dry before freezing. Poultry can be store whole or cut into pieces. Again, you can pour a marinade over the chicken before freezing for better flavor and ease of cooking!
- Fruits & Vegetables: When possible, choose fresh fruits and vegetables in season for freezing. However, I'll chop/prepare any freezable vegetable that is starting to go soft. When doing this, cut away any soft/bad spot first. Rinse and pat dry. Then chop/prepare vegetable as needed. Fruits can be frozen with or without sweetening, dry or in syrup. Some vegetables should be blanched while others can be baked before freezing. Cool foods quickly and store in a storage bag/container.
- Fish: Small, whole fish need to be packaged with water in the bag/container in order to form a cake of ice. This keeps the fish fresh. For big fish, cut into chunks/steaks/fillets.
- Shellfish: Oysters & clams can be stored in or out of the shell. Scallops need to be stored in their own liquid. Individual lobsters and crabs need to be steam or boiled before freezing. Store shrimp in smaller meal-friendly bags.
- Dairy Products: Butter or lard products in 1lb blocks, pats or curls can be frozen. Freeze whipped cream in dollops (first freeze on a cookie sheet). Freeze cheese in slices or shreds; store in individual meal-friendly bags. Packaged shredded and sliced cheese can be frozen as well. I purchase large bags and blocks of deli cheese and divide them into smaller packages. This does take up more room but it makes things easier to grab. Egg whites can be frozen as well as scrambled eggs. Make egg "pancakes" and freeze on cookie tray over night. These can be stored individually or on a breakfast sandwich!
- Prepared Foods: Make sandwiches up ahead of time and store in individual storage bags. Put frozen sandwich in lunch box before you leave for school/work and it will be thawed by lunch time! (this works with most types of bread) For easier individual servings of stocks/broths/gravies/sauces and baby food, freeze first in ice cube trays then in a storage bag. Open damaged/close to expiration canned vegetables/soups/fruits/meats and store in bags. Additional prepared foods that are easily frozen: Casseroles (freeze in container, then transfer contents into bag), stews, creamed dishes, diet foods and much more!
- Leftovers: When preparing leftovers for cold storage, package and freeze small amounts of the leftovers to make one larger meal later.
- Desserts: Cakes, cupcakes and cookies can be frozen if wrapped well and all air is removed from the container. Uncooked frosting's can be frozen as well as pies and pie fillings.
- Keep your freezer at 0 degrees F or lower, keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F.
- When possible, freeze top quality foods. Freezing will not improve the quality of the food. When freezing older food to prevent spoilage, be sure to use these first when preparing/planning a meal. The quality is ok and is best when combined in a larger meal. For example: I froze some chopped pieces of sweet peppers that I had cleaned and cleared of bad spots. I used the peppers within a month for optimum freshness and flavor.
- When preparing foods properly for freezing or storing, be sure to check you freezer manual for helpful hints and tips as well as specific food preparation.
- Use the cookie sheet technique to freeze before packaging items such as: berries, peas, beans, diced or chopped vegetables, parsley, chives, hamburger patties, meat loaves, chicken parts, etc.. Bags can be opened, contents partially used, then resealed and stored.
- Always push air out of bags before storing or freezing. Leave an inch of the seal open, press air out then finish sealing.
- Label all items: date, number of servings or amount, name of food, and instructions for serving if necessary.
- Leave at least 1/2 inch head space in bags to allow for expansion when freezing.
- Pack in serving sized amounts when possible.
- Freeze foods as quickly as possible.
- Place packaged food on it's side until frozen.
- When frozen solid, freezer storage bags can be stacked to simplify storage.
- Do Not refreeze thawed foods.
Recommended maximum storage times for frozen foods held at o degree F or below:
Raw ground meat.....9 months
Cooked beef patties.....3 months
Cut poultry.....10 months
Barbecued Chicken.....10 months
Chicken ala King.....9 months
Raw steak.....10 months
Beef stew.....9 months
Pork chops.....10 months
Tuna casserole.....9 months
Raw fish.....7 months
Apple turnovers.....9 months
Yeast rolls.....9 months
Fruits & Vegetables
Citrus fruits and juices.....9 months
Other fruits.....9-12 months
Vegetables (with the exception of potatoes).....9 months
Spaghetti sauce.....10 months
Brown gravy.....10 months