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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cooking for the Freezer

When I'm under pressure cooking for Shabbos can be pretty stressful.
To make things easier on myself I try to cook some foods in advance (often in large batches) and stick them in the freezer for those weeks when things are just too crazy.

Here's what you need to know:

Unreliable Freezer = Unreliable Results
Is your freezer older than your mom?! Freezing won't work in a freezer that cannot maintain a consistant temperature. Here's a test. Does your ice cream come out of the freezer full of those nasty ice crystals? That's a sign of melting and refreezing - unless you've been leaving your Ben and Jerry's out on the table too long before refreezing, do not attempt to use your freezer for this kind of storage.

Trapped Air = Freezer Burn

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am the queen of the ziplock bags. I buy them in all sizes.
They are wonderful because you can put the food inside, squeeze out the extra air and seal. Keeps things fresh and delicious.
For more liquid or heavier items I used air tight plastic storage containers.
Leaving things unwrapped or loosely wrapped in foil or plastic wrap is a bad bad idea.

Don't Refreeze
Once you have frozen a dish and thawed it, don't put it back in the freezer- the magic only works once.
You can however freeze raw meat or chicken, defrost and cook it, and then freeze the cooked version.

So what kind of foods can be frozen in advance without becoming soggy, freezer burned, and generally unedible?

Here are some guidelines:

Baking - Most baked goods freeze well. Cookies, Challah, Brownies, Cake will all come out just fine. Just make sure that the baked goods are full cooled before you freeze them. Oh, and don't mix batter and fruit for example: don't try to freeze an apple cake. An apple pie on the other hand (or any fruit pie) where the pastry and the fruit are seperate will freeze nicely.

Soup - Soup is a great thing to freeze. Any non-dairy soup should freeze well. You can even freeze chicken soup with matza balls and it comes out great. I would avoid adding pasta to any soup before freezing it, you can always add it in after you thaw and reheat it.

Chicken and meat with liquids- I've found that meat and chicken with sauces freeze wonderfully - for example sweet and sour meatballs, chicken marinara, or even pot roast once reheated will be just as delicious as if you made it that day.

Do Not Freeze
Cooked fish, raw fruits and vegetables - this requires a special freezer and in the case of fruit some blanching prior to freezing let's not go there... pasta, and dairy products.

I hope this is helpful and if you have any questions about cooking or freezing or ummm anything just ask...


maybe you mean things not to freeze that you've created, but my ice cream i like frozen. nice post!
Lasagna can be frozen, and that's a pasta dish, so there are probably some exceptions to every rule... but I'm sure I'll be back to refer to this list of dos and don'ts again!
yes I knew someone was going to mention lasagna!

That works because it's pasta and sauce but in general (for beginners) both cheese and noodles are a risky freeze ;-)
thanks shifra. i am freezing a lot now as i am past 36 weeks preg and want my fam to have food for after the birth. your tips were invaluable. i basically am making everything i normally make now in double or triple and just freezing the other half or 2/3. so far, we are getting pretty stocked up. Y is going to be eating meat for weeks!
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