Monday, February 17, 2014

Freezer Cooking Storage

Food in the freezer is an investment.  You put the time, effort and money into making your freezer meals and you want to protect that investment.  Some things are perfectly fine stored in reused yogurt containers but other things do best in freezer bags or vacuum sealed bags.  Lets look as all the ways you can store your freezer cooking

 No Container

Storing food in the freezer without any wrapping or container not recommended.  Foods can dry out, absorb odors and become freezer burnt.  Flash freezing can be done without any covering but you will want to be sure to transfer the food to an appropriate container as soon as its becomes firm.  You can flash freeze by placing the food on a silicone mat lined cookie sheet or in ice cube trays.

Freezer Paper, Aluminum foil

Freezer paper or aluminum foil usually won't provide much protection but they work well when you want to individually wrap items or keep items separated.  A small square of freezer paper between hamburger patties will keep them from sticking together so you can remove just what you need from the freezer without thawing the entire package.  Aluminum foil is also useful for odd shaped items that don't fit easily in another container, like breakfast burritos.  If possible add another layer of protection, such as a freezer bag.

Zipper Bags

Some people exclusively freeze in zipper bags.  They are cheap, disposable and can be frozen flat to save freezer space.  Zipper bags are also great if you need to get into a bag over and over.  Choose freezer bags over thinner storage zipper bags.  Zipper bags won't provide much protection and should be only used for short term storage.  I love keeping cookie dough balls in zipper bags.  Take out a few at a time to bake fresh cookies without being tempted by an entire batch.  Thaw in the fridge overnight or remove the food and warm in another container.

Plastic Containers

You can re-use plastic food containers like yogurt or margarine tubs or buy containers.  Glad Ware or Ziploc type containers come in lots of sizes and shapes to fit your needs.  Freezing can cause the plastic to become brittle and break.  There are food containers specifically made for freezing which won't break as easily.  Containers are great for soups or liquid foods that can be hard to pour into a freezer bag.  Make sure you do not heat foods in the container unless they are made to go into the microwave.

Glass Jars

I love the idea of freezing in glass jars but if you have to do it properly.  Expanding food can break glass jars and because there could be shards of glass in the food, you will have to throw the food away.  Even heavy duty mason jars meant for pressure canning can break in the freezer.    If the jar has shoulders or tapers, it is not appropriate for freezing.  Only freeze in jars that have straight sides like half pint or wide mouth pint jars.  The small size of these jars means they won't work for most thing.  I do love using wide mouth pint jars to store raw ground beef.  One pound of ground meat fits perfectly in wide mouth pint jars.  It's a tight fit but less air space means less freezer burn.  Thaw in the fridge overnight or place the jar in cold water to thaw.  You can reheat food directly in the glass jar if the food is thawed.  Do not heat in glass if the food is still frozen, it could cause the glass to break.

Vacuum Sealed Bags

You should consider investing in a vacuum sealing system if you want the best protection from freezer burn.  Food Saver is the brand I use.  The bags can be pricey so I use them for long term storage or for things that have no better alternative.  The bags can be washed and reused but I wouldn't if the bag was used for raw meat.  You can find good deals on rolls of off-brand vacuum bags online which work just as well.  Most vacuum sealing bags are microwave safe.  To reheat the food cut a vent in the bag and heat in the microwave or place the bag in a pan of simmering water.

No matter which way you chose to store your frozen foods, make sure you clearly label and date everything.  Add reheating instructions and last minute additions so you won't be guessing come dinner time.

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