Cooking for Your Freezer
We see three reasons to cook for
your freezer: It saves time, it saves money, and it puts food away in case of
an emergency. In this article, we'll give you helpful directions for
getting the most from your freezer.
If your home is like ours,
we routinely put leftovers in the refrigerator. Than we forget about them
and in a few days, throw them out. How much better to wrap them, freeze
them, label them and use them at a later date. And when you're cooking
that favorite casserole, why not double the batch, make two, and freeze the
second? If we have a selection of favorite family foods in the freezer,
we can bail ourselves out on those busy days when we just don't have time to
Your freezer can save you money in a number of ways. On those busy days
when there is no time to cook—and for most of us, there are too many of those
days—we either reach for a store-bought prepared food, call out to the
restaurant for delivery, or jump in the car and go out to eat. All three
solutions are expensive. Grabbing a casserole, some frozen rolls, and a
dessert from the freezer is quicker, better, and will save money. And in
an emergency, it's nice to have food put by.
Tips for Getting
the Most from Your Freezer
- Avoid freezer burn: Freezer burn is actually dehydration. It
destroys cell structures and affects both flavor and texture. Plastic is
not an adequate oxygen barrier. Use wrapping paper designed for
freezing. If you do use plastic, it should be the heavier “freezer” bags designed
for the freezer and the food should not be stored long.
- Stay organized: Mark and date everything. Group foods by type
with all meats going in one area of the freezer and baked goods in
another. Meats should be stored on the lowest shelf so that in the event
of an outage, melting juices will not drip on other foods. Keeping a pad
on the freezer to jot down inventory items and dates is a good idea.
Rotate: If you don't rotate the food in your freezer--use
it--you'll throw it out. Know what's in your freezer and use it
often. Don't wait until the food is marginal.
Freeze only best-quality foods: Freezing never improves quality.
Do not overcook foods: Food will continue cooking when
- Practice safety: Do not let lukewarm foods sit on the counter before
freezing. Remember that bacteria will grow below 140 degrees and freezing
does not kill them--they only go dormant to grow again when removed from the
freezer. If you need to cool foods quickly before freezing, consider
placing them in ice. Do not put so much food in your freezer at one time
that the freezer cannot freeze the food solid within 24 hours.
Prepared Foods and How to Freeze Them
Casseroles: Undercook casseroles when practical. To
freeze, wrap the casserole tightly in foil to avoid air pockets. Use
within four to six months. Reheat in an oven at 400 degrees for 30 to 45
Meatloaf: You can freeze your meatloaf baked or unbaked. Use
within three or four months. If unbaked, cook the meatloaf for 1 1/2 hours
at 350 degrees or reheat a baked meatloaf for one hour.
Other cooked meats: Remove as much fat from the meat as possible before
freezing. Keep the pieces large and cover with gravy or broth if
possible. Use within two to four months. Thaw in the refrigerator
and reheat for 20 minutes in a hot oven.
Potatoes: Store mashed potatoes in a covered container. Twice
baked potatoes store well. Consider
cutting baked potatoes lengthwise, mashing the contents, and refilling the
shell before freezing. French fries can be frozen. Reheat them on a
baking sheet at 400 degrees.
Quick breads: Wrap the bread in aluminum foil to freeze. Use within
two or three months. Thaw it at room temperature or reheat it in a warm
oven (325 degrees).
Yeast breads: Consider slicing the bread before freezing.
Place the bread in plastic bags and then wrap the loaves tightly in foil.
Thaw the bread at room temperature or reheat it at 300 degrees for fifteen to
twenty minutes. Consider toasting individual slices to thaw.
Cakes: Unfrosted cakes such as fruit cakes and angel food cakes
freeze well. Consider slicing them before freezing so that you can get
our just what you need. Wrap the entire cake in foil or wrap individual
slices to freeze. Cakes with shortening or butter should be used within
four months. Many types of icing do not freeze well.
- Cookies: Store baked cookies
in heavy plastic bags and use within two months. If stored in foil in
rigid, airtight containers, the cookies may be stored for up to six