Are You Freezing Your Food the Right Way?
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What's so hard about freezing food?
You just open the freezer door and toss it in, right?
Well, not quite.
It may seem like a pretty straightforward activity, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Freezing food is a great way to save money on your groceries. You can buy things in bulk when they're on sale and put them in the freezer to use later. And, freezing leftovers can help eliminate waste.
Preparing meals in advance and freezing them can be a big help, too, if you're crunched for time. Plus you'll be less likely to order pizza or pick up fast food on the way home if you have meals in the freezer.
But, back to the main question: Are you freezing your food properly?
In order to preserve the quality of the food and ensure your family stays healthy, you'll want to follow these steps.
Adjust Your Freezer Temperature
Do you know what the ideal temperature is for your freezer?
You might think it's anything below 32° Fahrenheit, the freezing temperature for water. I used to think that, myself. But I was wrong.
The FDA recommends that you keep your freezer at 0° Fahrenheit. This will ensure your food retains its best flavor, color, texture, and nutritional value.
It's a good idea to put a thermometer in the freezer and check the temperature every week. Make any necessary adjustments so that it remains at a consistent 0° Fahrenheit.
Freezer thermometers are cheap. You can get one for under $10.
Allow Food Items to Cool Properly Before Freezing
When you're cleaning up after dinner, it may be tempting to throw the leftovers in the freezer while they are still warm.
Don't do that!
You should always cool cooked dishes in the refrigerator before freezing them.
Because if you put warm food in the freezer, it's going to raise the internal temperature in the freezer, which can cause surrounding frozen items to thaw and then refreeze.
And thawing and refreezing can negatively affect the texture and taste of certain foods.
Avoid Freezer Burn
Food with freezer burn is safe to eat, but it can dramatically alter the taste and quality.
It's caused by air coming into contact with and drying out the food. So, you want to remove as much excess air from the package as possible.
The best way to prevent freezer burn from happening is to wrap your food items tightly. Whenever it makes sense, use a zip-top freezer bag to package your food, and be sure to push out any air pockets before you seal it.
If you use plastic or glass containers, make sure that they are labeled as freezer safe. You should fill them most of the way, but leave a little space for the contents to expand.
The longer food is in the freezer, the more likely it is to develop freezer burn. So, label and date the food so that you use up the oldest food first.
Know Which Foods are Safe to Freeze
Most foods are suitable for freezing. Meats, poultry, fish, fruit, and vegetables are great candidates. So are breads, soups, casseroles, and many other prepared foods.
But, not all foods hold up well in the freezer. Well, actually, it's when you thaw them that they go to pot.
You can freeze things like cooked eggs and cream sauces, but it'll ruin the texture. Fried foods end up soggy and leafy vegetables like lettuce will wilt.
Of course, they're safe for you to eat, but you probably won't want to.
If You Have to Refreeze Foods, Do So Quickly
Have you ever heard that you should never refreeze food?
Well, it's not true.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has dispelled that myth, stating that as long as previously frozen foods thaw in the refrigerator, it is perfectly safe to refreeze it.
That goes for raw and cooked meats, and any other previously frozen foods
It does tend to degrade the quality of the food, though, because it loses moisture when it thaws.
There is a time limit, though.
You should never refreeze any foods that are left out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. An if the air temperature is over 90 °F, you'll only have one hour to refreeze.
Consider Recommended Storage Times
Will frozen food keep indefinitely?
Yes and no.
Food kept at 0° Fahrenheit or below won't spoil or make you sick, even after years in the freezer.
But the quality will definitely suffer after a while.
Cooked meat, for example, should only be held in the freezer for two or three months, while cooked poultry can get up to four months. Soups and casseroles are also in the two- to three-month category.
Uncooked meat and poultry can go longer, though -
- Raw ground beef, turkey, or pork: 3 to 4 months
- Raw chops, roasts, and steaks: 4 to 12 months
- Raw poultry: nine to 12 months
The FDA has a nice refrigerator and freezer storage chart that you can download and print here.
Dating your food items will help you keep track of when you should use them. Include the date you put them in the freezer along with the date when the recommended storage time elapses.
A common-sense approach to freezing your food is can keep your family safe and your meals delicious. By following these guidelines, you'll get the maximum benefit from your frozen foods.