To read Part I of the Freezer Cooking Basics Series click here.
One of the freezer cooking questions I get asked the most is “How do I know which foods I can freeze?”
This fear of the unknown is what keeps many beginner freezer cooks from diving in and cooking up healthy meals for the freezer. While it may seem like there is some secret equation to what foods will freeze or not, really it is quite simple.
Most foods will freeze.
Try this experiment. Next time you are in the grocery store take a look around the freezer section. Make note of all the different foods and meals that are being sold. More than likely you will find every kind of frozen food being offered and at a premium price. Good news is that all of these foods can be prepared and frozen at home using fresh wholesome healthier ingredients. Some items may take a little more finesse than others but I guarantee you can make the same foods that are found in the grocery store freezer section and for a lot less money.
I am sure you would like more information than just me telling you to take a walk around the freezer section of your grocery store. Correct?
Yep, I thought so.
Based on my own personal freezer cooking experiences and research I put together a list of foods that do and do not freeze well. I hope you find this helpful as you start creating your own healthy freezer meals.
Foods That Freeze Well
Raw meat always freezes well and will last several months in the freezer. However, I never put raw meat in the freezer unless it is prepped and/or prepared to come out and into a complete meal. For example, raw chicken will always be in a marinade before heading to the freezer this way it is ready for the grill or oven once thawed. Raw ground beef or turkey will be formed into hamburger patties also ready for the grill.
Preparing and cooking the meat first is my preferred freezer cooking method. I want my meats ready to be used as meal starters. For example, shredded chicken, seasoned ground beef, taco meat, pulled pork, and meatballs can all be made and frozen ahead of time to be used in many recipes. Recipes such as cheeseburger wraps, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, and tacos are all a cinch to make during the week when the meats are prepared ahead of time. I also have grilled chicken in the freezer that I take out and use for salads at lunchtime. There are so many options when it comes to prepared meats in the freezer.
Cooked rice freezes and reheats perfectly. My freezer is always stocked with single serving packets of rice to be used for recipes or just to have as a side. You can check out post on how to cook and freeze rice.
Bread, pizza, cookie, and other dough freezes very well and will bake perfectly once thawed. Frozen cookie dough can be used straight from the freezer.
Baked cookies, muffins, yeast breads, and quick breads are all freezer friendly. All of these baked goods can be taken out in the morning and by lunch time it will be defrosted and ready to eat. They can also be warmed up in a toaster oven, regular oven, or microwave.
Tomato based sauces freeze very well. Whenever I make sauce I always make a triple batch so I can have extra for the freezer. With this sauce on hand I can easily put together quick dinners such as ravioli, rigatoni, or any dish that requires a red sauce.
Beans freeze great. I actually just recently discovered this and was thrilled. I use to spend so much money on canned beans but now I make large batches with my slow cooker and then portion them up and freeze to use in later recipes.
Potatoes will freeze fine if they are cooked and prepared first. Raw potatoes will turn black if frozen.
Most cooked vegetables can be frozen if used in a sauce, soup, or other recipe.
Raw vegetables can be frozen and used in later recipes if prepared and/or blanched ahead of time. Check out this fantastic article by Tipnut that covers in detail the ins and outs of freezing vegetables.
Foods That Are Freezer Tricky
Pasta in my opinion is the trickiest when it comes to freezer cooking. Freezing pasta alone can turn out fine if you under cook it by a few minutes. However, in a casserole dish like macaroni and cheese, because it it frozen in a liquid or sauce, I have found the pasta to get mushy. I have successfully frozen pasta in individual freezer meals, by separating pasta from the sauce, such as with my shrimp fra diavlo.
Soups depending on the ingredients can be a little tricky. I have found bean soups to freeze well. Soups with pasta do not because the pasta gets mushy. Cream soups will freeze well if the cream contains over 40% fat. Less than that and the liquids may separate. Soups that contain starchy vegetables and a broth will freeze fine with little to no change in the texture of the vegetables. Soups with water based vegetables (peppers, onions, etc) I have had mixed results with. Sometimes they are fine other times the vegetables tend to get a little mushy.
Eggs that are scrambled and prepared first will freeze fine. Eggs whites will get rubbery if frozen.
Fruits will freeze and still be edible but they will not have the same texture as when they were fresh. They can still be used in smoothies, mix with yogurt, or consumed plain. To use in baking I always defrost and drain as much liquid as possible. If given the choice I always use fresh fruits over frozen in baking.
Herbs will freeze and retain their flavors however their texture will be compromised. You can still use them in recipes but not as a garnish.
Cheese and Dairy
Although shredded cheese freezes great block cheese will get crumbly after it has been frozen.
Milk and other dairy products can be frozen but the texture might be a little off when it is defrosted.
Food That Do Not Freeze Well
Raw potatoes do not freeze well and will turn black.
Vegetables with high water content (cucumbers, lettuce, etc) do not freeze well and will become very mushy and watery when defrosted.
Foods or recipes that call for gelatin, meringue, custard, or mayonnaise do not freeze well
This list by no means is exhaustive and like I said is based on my own personal experiences with freezer cooking. I am always experimenting with new techniques and tricks so this list can change as I grow more knowledgeable in the freezer cooking arena.
If you are unsure about whether or not something is going to freeze I encourage you to research and experiment. A quick google search will give you an idea of the experiences others have had with freezing certain foods. However, don’t completely depend on another’s experience because your results can very well be different. The best way is to just experiment. Start with a small amount of a recipe and see how it holds up to freezer cooking.
The more you experiment, the more comfortable you will get.
Please add your experiences with freezing certain foods. I would love to learn from you as well.
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