Learn all the tricks and tips you need to know about freezing almost anything with this easy guide. By mastering how to use your freezer, you’ll save time and money, and minimise wastage of fresh food. Freezing allows you to preserve food for a long period of time. The optimum temperature for freezing most foods is -18°C / 0°F or colder. At this temperature food-poisoning bacteria stops growing, so although freezing doesn’t kill bacteria it does stop it from growing and prevents food poisoning.
What you need
Freezer Storage and Labels
- Foil and plastic wraps. Good for wrapping cakes, muffins, quiches and tarts.
- Freezer paper to place between pancakes, fritters and raw meats.
- Sealable freezer bags for freezing muffins, fritters, pancakes and vegetables.
- Plastic airtight, freezer proof containers for freezing liquid-based dishes, such as soups and casseroles.
- Freezer proof, ovenproof dishes are needed for when you’re cooking and freezing ready to go meals.
- Labels / Freezer markers to date and identify frozen foods.
How to store Frozen Food
Here’s how to store different kinds of foods safely and efficiently, so you also make the most of your freezer space.
- Liquid-based dishes such as soups and stock, should be stored in airtight containers. Leave a 3cm gap at the top so the liquid can expand as it freezes.
- Premade food dishes such as lasagne, pasta bakes, casseroles etc. Once cooked, transfer to a freezer and oven proof dish. Cover with plastic wrap or foil. This makes it easier to use later as the meal can be thawed and placed directly into the oven. After cooking homemade food, allow it to cool slightly, then cover and place in the fridge to cool completely before freezing.
- Berries / Fresh Fruit. Arrange carefully in an airtight container and freeze (don’t over full as fruit may become misshapen).
- Fritters and patties. Place, in single layers, between sheets of freezer paper in an airtight container. This makes them easy to separate.
- Muffins, cakes & slices. Store in either an airtight container or individually in sealable plastic bags.
- Uncooked Minced Meat / Chicken pieces / Packaged Meat. Divide into serving sizes and place in a sealable plastic bag and press to flatten. This allows the meat to thaw more evenly than when it’s frozen into a thicker shape.
- Nuts. Place in airtight containers or sealable plastic bags and store in the freezer.
- Crepes & pancakes. Layer each one between sheets of freezer paper, so they don’t stick together when thawed. Store in sealable plastic bags.
What not to freeze
Some foods don’t freeze well.
- Vegetables with high water content (such as cucumber, celery and lettuce) should not be frozen because the water expands during freezing and damages the structure of the cells making them mushy when thawed.
- Jam turns runny and watery when frozen and thawed because freezing causes the sugar to break down.
- Egg based sauces can separate and whole egg shells crack when frozen. Raw egg whites, however, can be frozen in sealable airtight containers and thawed for use in recipes.
Did you know…
You can refreeze some foods that have been frozen and thawed? However, refrozen food doesn’t have the same freezer-life as food that hasn’t been previously frozen and thawed, so it’s best to use it within a week of refreezing. The process of refreezing raw foods and cooked meals differs.
- Refreeze raw foods (such as poultry and meat) as long as they have not been thawed in the fridge for longer than 48 hours. Don’t refreeze raw food that has been taken out of the fridge or has reached more than 5°C. Discard any raw foods with unpleasant odours.
- Refreeze cooked foods (such as soups, casseroles and pasta bakes) as soon as they have cooled down after being reheated. If food has been left at room temperature for more than one or two hours, do not refreeze it.
Shopping and Freezing
Follow these simple tips when doing your grocery shopping, to help keep your food safe:
- Buy frozen foods just before you go to the checkout to keep the food frozen for longer.
- Bring cooler bags or have a small cooler in your car boot to transport foods from the supermarket. This ensures the food stays frozen during the trip home.
- Place foods in the freezer as soon as you return home to make sure they don’t thaw.
- Freeze foods as soon as possible when you get home from the supermarket.
Guide to freezing times
All frozen foods have a use-by date. Click here to See our Complete Guide to Freezer Food Timelines to become more familiar with them. Use this chart as your guide to maximum freezing times for a wide range of foods.
How to Thaw Frozen Food
Here are some handy tips for thawing different foods at room temperature and in the fridge.
- Cakes, muffins and biscuits can be thawed at room temperature. Remove and discard the plastic wrap or other packaging before thawing so that they don’t become soggy.
- Fresh pasta, sliced bread, frozen meals and frozen veggies can be reheated immediately after being taken out of the freezer.
- Meat, chicken, fish, fruit and cooked liquid-based dishes should be thawed in the fridge to prevent bacteria growing.
Reheating cooked foods
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when reheating food that has been frozen.
- When reheating, it’s best to keep the food covered to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.
- When using your oven, stovetop or microwave to reheat meat and vegetable dishes, make sure the food is completely heated through to the centre before serving.
More Smart tricks to Know about Freezing
Follow these top tips and smart tricks to use your freezer to the fullest and get best results from freezer-friendly recipes.
- Label and date frozen foods
- For quicker thawing and reheating, freeze meals such as casseroles and soups in serving size portions.
- Freezer burn occurs when foods have been exposed to air during freezing. To avoid freezer burn and prevent food absorbing other flavours and odours, choose airtight, freezer proof containers.
- Try to keep your freezer as full as you can. This makes it more cost-efficient and saves energy as less power is needed to circulate the cold air and keep the food frozen.