Keys to frozen food

Either if you buy food already frozen, or you can freeze food you get fresh, there are some rules to follow.

The same can be said for using frozen food, some times you will use as is, some others it will need thawing first.

Keys to frozen food & easy, quick cooking

The freezer is one of the best appliances in a modern kitchen, not only for convenience but as an efficient tool for cutting food costs. Pull a meal in not time at all, get ahead for planned entertaining, take advantage of offers, and use any leftover food are but a few advantages the freezer offers.

Some fresh vegetables are difficult and time consuming to prepare, even when they are in season, and buying the frozen version is a good compromise between nutrition and convenience

Frozen food will make cooking easier if you follow the rules.

Buying frozen products

It is essential to keep to a minimum the time from purchase to storage in your freezer. At the grocery store, buy frozen products last. To ensure correct transport, carry insulated bags, or cool boxes with blocks of ice, if the time between purchase and storage is more than 15 minutes. Place the products in the freezer as soon as you are home. Frozen products should be stored at 0F (-18C) and the time the food will keep depends on the performance of your freezer.

The number of stars will give you an indication.

Signs in a freezer and corresponding temperatures
Stars Temperature Storage Comments
* 21° F (-6° C) Sufficient to keep food for three or four days, a week at most.

A perfect setting for making ice cubes.

** 10° F (-12° C) Good to store food for fifteen to twenty days, no more than one month.  
*** 0° F ( -18° C) Food will keep safe for up to three months.  
* *** -18° F to -22° F
(-28° C to -30° C)
Food can keep for upt to six months. The compartment provides ideal conditions for freezing down fresh and pre-cooked foods.

 

There are large stores specialized only in the sale of frozen products, on line or in the shop, and they have very competitive prices.

Freezing your own

There are some rules to freeze fresh produce or pre-cooked food

  • A freezer able to reach quickly a temperature below -18°F (28°C, four stars)
  • Freeze fresh produce at peak quality.
  • Wrap food in freezer safe bags or foil containers. Any container used must be impermeable to odors
  • Freeze in small quantities. Thick products take longer to reach optimal freezing temperature at the core.
  • The quantity - or volume - of food to freeze at one time must not exceed 6%, or 9 to 10% for the more efficient devices, the total volume of the freezer.
  • Set the freezer at top temperature fro freezing a few hours before placing the food inside.

Parboiling or blanching vegetables before freezing will ensure a longer freezer life and safer thawing.

How to freeze meat

Meat is probably the most expensive thing that people freeze. It is extremely important to pay close attention when freezing meat, so that it does not go bad in the process. It is best to cut the meat into individual portions before freezing because the meat could spoil if it has to be thawed and reheated numerous times. Once the meat is cut, it should be chilled, covered, to about 40 degrees, and over-wrapped with a thick plastic wrap before being put into an airtight container.

Freezer temperature

It is important to keep meat chilled to at least 40 degrees. This will help maintain the safe temperature of the meat so no bacteria can grow. Once you get home from the store, immediately put the meat away. Double check the temperature in your refrigerator to ensure it is between 35 and 40 degrees and that your freezer is at zero degrees or a little below. Having your freezer set to the proper temperature, between 0 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit, will help the meat freeze faster, develop smaller ice crystals and prevent freezer burn as much as possible.

Large amounts of meat

If you plan on storing large amounts of meat, break them down into smaller portion sizes before freezing because this will make thawing easier for individual servings. Keep the meat in the original packaging, if possible, and make sure there are no holes or perforations in the packaging. Most typical meats can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days at the proper temperature. If you are not planning to use the meat before this time, consider freezing and then thawing. If you do not plan on using the meat within two months, over-wrap the meat with a heavy-duty plastic wrap or put it into an acceptable freezer bag.

We have already gone over how freezer burn occurs, so it is important to get the meat as cold as possible, as quickly as possible. While the normal freezer should be set around 0 degrees Fahrenheit for storing food, you should turn your freezer down to about -10 degrees Fahrenheit the day before so that the freezer has time to prepare for the unfrozen food that is about to be added.

Once Frozen

Once the meat is frozen, you should store it on the bottom of the freezer. As the cold air radiates from the other food in the freezer, it will help to keep the meat frozen and keep the strain off of the freezer.

Thawing frozen food

Most microwave ovens have a special setting for thawing frozen food, and some of them are very good. In the absence of one of these devices, or if you want to save energy, the advice is:

  • It is not safe to thaw food at room temperature. Remember cold does not kill dangerous microorganisms - bacteria, yeasts, molds- and it only slows their growth. Some of them live very well from 0 to 8, all multiply very rapidly between 8 and 40 and most live up to 65.
  • Take out of the freezer large pieces of meat or fish - a whole fish, chicken or a roast - the cay before and thaw in a box inside the fridge.
  • Take to the refrigerator ground meat or steaks in the morning, and they will be ready to cook in the evening.
  • It is important to remember once meat is frozen, it should not be thawed and re-frozen again. This will lead to serious oxidation and freezer burn.
  • Pat dry thawed meat with kitchen paper before cooking as it loses some water and it may splatter.
  • Thaw fish fillets or steaks, especially when wrapped in plastic, in cold water - change the water 1 or 2 times. It should take about 15 minutes to thaw a fish steak 1 inch thick this way.
  • Don't thaw vegetables. Place frozen vegetables in boiling water and count the cooking time from the moment the water boils again. Frozen vegetables need a shorter cooking time as they are usually blanched before freezing.

If you are careful to avoid the risk of cross-contamination, thawing food in the fridge is efficient as the frozen food will help to keep the refrigerator cool and it would not use so much energy.

Smart Ideas to make the Most Of The Freezer

Pack the freezer: The less empty space to keep cold, the less energy the freezer will use. Fill the freezer with all sort of frozen food and you'll get a cooler summer and become energy-efficient.

Your freezer has to work to keep all the food cold. Think of it like a portable cooler full of food. The less items in the cooler, the more ice you must put in to keep it cold. When the cooler is full, the cold food helps keep the inside temperature cold and thus you need less ice. Your freezer works the same way. Keeping a full freezer means less work keeping everything else frozen, plus it will stay cold longer if your power goes out.

Frozen convenience food: chopped onions; herbs such parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives, basil or mixed; vegetables such as spinach, peas or sliced mushrooms; fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, chopped pineapple, peaches or mango; partly prepared foods such as mixed vegetables, oven fries, pizza bases or rice.

Location, Location, Location: It only makes sense to store and stack food items in the order they will be used. Food close to, or in the door does not stay as cold as the food located in the back parts of the freezer. Smart stacking will help improve your end results, because one of the contributing factors to freezer burn is the constant thawing and re-freezing of foods.