how to freeze and defrost safely and easily

In my last post, I shared some of my favourite things to keep in the freezer, along with what I add to those meals to make them extra delicious when we eat them. I get lots of questions in class about what can and can’t be frozen, how to freeze, and how to defrost safely so here is a quick guide.

Choose the right container to freeze in

I freeze food in glass freezer and ovenproof containers with rubber lids – Pyrex do a great range buy them in the US here or buy them in the UK here. I also use plastic zip top bags.

If you freeze food in too large a chunk, the defrosting stage seems endless and off-putting. Freeze in individual portions, or in bags, where you can make the food flat and thin, rather than in a big block. This speeds things up no end.

Label and log it before you freeze it

Always label whatever you’re freezing. I once made a crumble with frozen parsnips when I’d thought they were apple. Now I always label. I keep a roll of paper masking tape and a Sharpie in my freezer bag drawer along with a notebook with a list of what’s in my freezer. I cross things off as I use them. Much easier than rummaging through when I’m menu planning and shopping for the week or starving and looking for food.

What can and can’t be re-frozen

I’ve written my list of freezer fillers here. You can also freeze butter and milk. Don’t re-freeze raw meat or fish that has already been defrosted. Previously frozen meat and fish can be cooked and then frozen again as part of a meal. Once that meal has been defrosted, it can’t be refrozen.

Most cakes and tray bakes can be frozen. Either whole or in slices.

Most things with egg as the main ingredient don’t freeze well. But egg whites can be frozen.

Vegetables with a high water content don’t freeze well – although they can be cooked into a soup and blitzed.

How to freeze and defrost

  1. Let hot food come to room temperature – either spread it onto a plate or shallow dish to speed this up, or leave it on the side for an hour before putting it in the fridge to cool.
  2. Once food is cool, wrap it in a freezer container or bag – one that means you don’t have much air in there. Label and freeze.
  3. Defrost things by pulling them out in the morning and leaving them on the side for a few hours. Start them off defrosting by filling a sink with hot water and dropping the packet in – make sure its water tight first. Or put them in the fridge the day before (I’m never organized enough to do this but this is the way you are meant to defrost things).
  4. Once your food is defrosted, heat it until it is bubbling and piping hot. I’d let anything with cooked meat in simmer for 8-10 minutes before serving to ensure it is properly heated.

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