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Freezer dos and don'ts

Freezer dos and don'ts

Current rating: 2 from 1 votes.

Freezing is a great way to preserve food to use at a later stage. Here's how to get it right.

How long can food be frozen?

When done properly, freezing can preserve the quality of fresh food. 

When stored at -18 degrees Celsius:

  • Fruit and vegetables can last between eight and 12 months.
  • Poultry can last between six and nine months.
  • Fish can be frozen for three to six months.
  • Beef will last three to four months.

For best quality, use the shorter storage times. After this, the food should still be safe to eat, but it’s quality may have deteriorated slightly. 

Which foods don’t freeze well?

Unfortunately, not all foods freeze equally well. For instance:

  • Raw cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, celery, cress, parsley and radishes become limp, water-logged and lose colour and flavour. Some of these products may well be frozen when pickled. 
  • Baked or boiled potato becomes soft, crumbly and water-logged.
  • Cooked egg whites become tough and rubbery in the freezer. The same goes for meringues.
  • Cream, sour cream and custard fillings may separate and become watery.
  • Jelly and other gelatine products weep when frozen (i.e. small drops of water form on the surface).
  • Most fried foods lose their crispness and become soggy.

Freezing spices and seasonings

Freezing could affect some of the spices and seasoning that you add to your food:

  • Pepper, cloves, garlic, green pepper and some herbs tend to become strong and bitter.
  • Onion and paprika change flavour.
  • Celery seasoning becomes stronger.
  • Salt loses some flavour.
  • Curry develops a musty flavour.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t freeze food that contain these ingredients. Just season lightly before freezing, and add additional seasoning when reheating or serving.

Defrosting food

For the best results, use these guidelines to thaw frozen foods:

  • Fruit: Depending on how quickly you want it defrosted, frozen fruit in the package can be thawed in the refrigerator, under running water, or in the microwave.
  • Vegetables: Most frozen vegetables should be cooked without thawing first.
  • Meat, fish and poultry: Meat, fish and poultry can be cooked from frozen or thawed. However, it’s best to meat in the refrigerator. For faster thawing, place it in waterproof wrapping in cold, slowly running water, or defrost in the microwave. If meat, fish or poultry is cooked without thawing, additional cooking time must be allowed.
  • Butter, milk and cheese: Place the frozen product in the refrigerator to thaw. Don’t microwave.

Freezing pointers

Here are some pointers to help you retain the quality of food when freezing:

  • Cool food before packaging it for freezing. This speeds up freezing and helps retain the natural colour, flavour and texture.
  • Don’t overload your freezer with unfrozen food. This slows down the freezing rate, and foods that freeze slowly may lose quality.
  • Leave some space between packages so that cool air can circulate freely. Once the food is frozen, store the packages close together.

General tips

  • Defrost your manual-defrost freezer at least once a year or when there’s more than half a centimetre of frost over a large area of the freezer surface.
  • Place your freezer in a cool, well-ventilated place. Never place it by the stove, heater or in direct sunlight. This will make it more difficult to maintain a temperature of -18 degrees Celsius.
  • To get rid of bad odours in your freezer, remove the food and wash the inside of the freezer with a solution of one tablespoon baking soda in a litre of water, or ¼ cup vinegar in a litre of water.

Source: US National Centre for Food Preservation

Image source: stevendepolo, Flickr

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