How to freeze foods and keep them edible
Last week I made the mistake of popping my asparagus stalks straight into the freezer from the supermarket and then defrosting thinking it would still be as delicious as a fresh piece. I was wrong.
I was wrong in thinking it would still taste edible because my method of freezing was off. Something I didn’t realise there was a knack to! So, I did a little research.
My mistake was that I didn’t blanch the asparagus first, who knew? As we are all trying to avoid daily trips to the supermarket, freezing your food is an ideal practice to preserve the goods you aren’t using for the next few days, ensuring you still manage to get your five-a-day, every day. And there is a trick to freezing that will make sure your food tastes delicious with their textures still intact when you come to defrost them, allowing you a continued balanced diet throughout the week.
How to avoid freezer burn
If you are planning to utilise your freezer space, be sure to avoid freezer burn as it may spoil your food and you’ll end up with wastage. Freezer burn occurs when a product has overstayed the recommended length of time in the freezer and isn’t packed tightly enough, leading to dehydration and oxidation, with air getting to the food.
Whilst eating food that has freezer burn is safe to eat, it might not taste very pleasant so always stick to recommended freezing time.
Cooking staples you can freeze
Bread is best frozen sliced, so you only have to take what you need and not thaw a whole loaf. It’s also the easiest to freeze when it comes to preparation. Simply wrap the loaf (keep it in the store-bought paper) in tin foil and pop it straight into the freezer. The double wrap will help to keep the bread fresh.
Use within six months.
Bought fresh, veggies such as broccoli, spinach, peas, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts – like my asparagus – all need blanching before you pop them in the freezer. Blanching is a process of heating the veg in boiling water for three to five minutes, and then plunging into cold water for the same amount of time. Ensure you dry thoroughly.
To ensure the veg doesn’t all freeze together in one lump, line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the veg out evenly. Freeze for at least six hours, and then transfer to a vacuum-packed bag. A simple trick if you don’t have a vacuum-packed bag, is to take a zip lock bag containing your veg, place the bottom of the bag in a bowl of water and allow the density of the water to push the air to the top and out of the bag.
Use within five to six months.
Fruit is very simple to freeze: it’s the best way to preserve its flavour and a handy practise if you know you’re only going to need a few pieces at a time for future recipes. Simply cut the fruit into bite-size pieces, wash them through a colander and spread them out on a baking tray.
Pat each piece as dry as possible with a piece of kitchen towel, and cover with foil. Pop straight into the freezer for at least six hours. Once frozen, transfer to a vacuum-packed bag or zip lock, with the air removed as above.
Use within six to nine months.
If you’re planning to freeze your tofu, as soon as you get home from the supermarket, press the tofu and slice for a quicker defrost time. You can freeze any type of tofu, and the process often leaves you with a chewier, sponge-like texture and is much firmer than fresh tofu.
Similar to fruit and veg, spread the tofu on a baking tray that’s lined with parchment paper, cover and place in the freezer for at least six hours. Once frozen you can transfer to a zip lock bag.
You might find your defrosted tofu has lots more holes in it. This is because tofu is made up of 86% water, and when you freeze the block, the water expands into ice causing little holes in the protein.
Use within three to four months.
Meat and poultry
To freeze meat and poultry, it’s important to do so as soon as you get home, or pop straight into the fridge – no longer than two days – if you don’t have time to prepare it straight away. Ideally, repackage the produce from the supermarket-bought packaging into a vacuum-packed bag as the supermarket packaging is permeable to air. Otherwise, you can simply wrap the container in kitchen foil to add an extra layer of protection to prevent freezer burn.
Use meat within three months, and poultry within six to nine months.
Freezing milk is an age-old debate and one that got me some strange looks from friends when I pulled a frozen milk carton out for defrosting. But you can actually freeze milk, and still enjoy a cuppa when it’s defrosted!
The important thing to note is that milk will expand when freezing, so it’s best to buy fresh, use a small amount – an inch will do – and then freeze. Milk does separate when freezing, so when you are ready to use it and it has fully defrosted, give it a good shake.
Use within six months, ideally within one.
How to defrost safely
When defrosting, it’s important you do so safely to avoid the chance for bacteria to contaminate your goods. If you leave food on the kitchen side at room temperature, it could be exposed to harmful bacteria which you then ingest, or pets and children could interfere with it, making them unwell.
The safest way to defrost frozen meat is by placing it in the fridge until it has defrosted entirely. This also applies to thawing milk and bread. If you’re making toast, you can pop your frozen slices straight into the toaster.
Fruit and vegetables can be defrosted in a number of ways, depending on how pushed you are for time you are. You can either leave them in the fridge overnight (which is the safest thawing option) simply pop the frozen bag into a bowl of cold water and change the water regularly, or place the veggies in a bowl in the microwave and cook for a few minutes at a time, stirring in between. Using the microwave is also a viable option for defrosting tofu.