How to Freeze Food Safely
Clean & Disinfect Equipment
How to prepare food before freezing
You want to clean both the interior and exterior surfaces of your freezer, removing and dirt, dust, sauces, and food spills. For the interior of your freezer, I recommend using hot water and 2 tbsp. of baking soda or a gentle dish soap. For the exterior of the freezer you may use a stronger cleaning/disinfecting agent such as Lysol or bleach. When cleaning, make sure to get all surfaces of the freezer and, if necessary, use a toothbrush to clean hard to reach cracks and crevices.
You also want to make sure any surfaces, equipment, containers, and utensils that you will be using to prepare the food to be frozen are clean as well.
Packaging/Storing food for Freezing
How to store food to freeze
When it comes to packaging and storing food in the freezer, there are several types of packaging to choose from. You can wrap the food in various types of freezer packaging, store in glass, foil, or plastic containers, or use even in certain types of bags.
There are three main types of packaging that I suggest for wrapping your food. They are foil, freezer paper, and plastic wrap. When using foil, it is best to use a heavy-duty foil for its thickness and because it won’t tear as easily as the thinner flimsy foils. Foil is easy for labeling because you can write, right on the packaging with a Sharpie Marker. Another perk with using foil is that you can unthaw and heat your frozen food right in the foil (DO NOT USE IN MICROWAVE!).
Freezer paper is a good packaging choice because it is made to go into the freezer. Most types generally come with a slick surface to place the food on which keeps the packaging from sticking to the food when you are unwrapping it. Freezer paper can also easily be labeled by writing directly on the package with a Sharpie marker.
Plastic wrap (aka clingwrap) is also an option, however it is my least favorite to recommend. I find it difficult to get as airtight of a seal as with the others. However, if you do choose to use plastic wrap I suggest using a wrap that can be used both in the freezer and in the microwave.
Best Containers to freeze food in
Foil containers are a great choice for storing large quantities of food, casseroles, and/or chunky stews and soups. They come in all shapes and sizes and they can be used to thaw and reheat your food in a conventional oven. You can get them with foil lined lids that can also be written on, to make labeling easy. Foil containers are also easy on the environment because they can be recycled along with your pop cans (excluding the cardboard lids). You may choose to reuse foil containers, however you must clean thoroughly to avoid bacteria and cross contamination.
Plastic containers are very convenient because they are relatively inexpensive and are reusable. They come in all shapes and sizes, with air tight lids, and are also sturdy enough to stack on top of each other. You can write directly on the plastic containers, however, I do not recommend this. It is better to use labels, than writing and crossing out on your containers.
Glass containers can be used but it must be a reinforced glass that is specially designed to withstand freezing temperatures. They too come in all shapes and sizes, with air tight lids, and are also sturdy enough to stack on top of each other. However, they are more expensive than their plastic counterparts.
Is freezing food in plastic bags safe
There are two types of bags that I recommend to freeze foods in. One is foil bags, and the other is polythene freezer bags. There are traditional plastic bags that advertise they can be used for freezing foods, but I find that they do not hold up well to tears and freezer burn.
Foil bags and polythene bags are great for freezing soups and other liquids, such as, juice, smoothies and sauces. They are very strong and prevent tears and leakage.
Once you have decided on what types of container(s) you want to use to freeze your food, you want to decide, in what quantities you want to freeze your food. You want to package your food in usable, manageable quantities. If you bought your meat or chicken from a bulk food store like Costco or Sam’s Club, you don’t want to freeze all 10 lbs of hamburger together or 50 drum sticks all in the same container. You want to freeze the hamburger in 1-2 lb packages. You can always unthaw more than one package at a time, but you cannot refreeze the meat once you have unthawed it if you have unthawed too much. Use this same principle if you have made large quantities of casseroles and soups. By storing the food in manageable quantities, you reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.
Once you have packaged your foods in the quantities you desire, you want to make sure to label each package with a description of what they are, the date they are being put in the freezer, and the date they should be used by. Don’t fall under the misguided notion that food in the freezer does not go bad, because you will risk making yourself or your family sick by eating food that has been frozen too long.
There are many different labeling methods and each one no better or worse than the next. You should use a labeling system that is easy for you to understand, and one that you will maintain. You can choose to color code your foods, so that each food group has a specific color. However, you will want to have a color key so that others can follow it and know what they are unthawing. You can use shorthand, but you want to make sure that it is easily understandable. Some people like to write on labels and stick them on the containers and packages. My personal preferences, is to simply write on the package itself unless it is a container and then I use labels. I note the date that I am freezing the food, the type of food that it is, the quantity of food (i.e. 2lbs ground beef), and the date that it should be used by. But, use whatever system works for you.
Now that you have your food packaged, labeled, and ready to go in the freezer, you want to make sure and have a rotational system so that you are not placing newly frozen food right on top or in the front. You want to use the oldest frozen food first so as not to waste food, by having it go bad because you were only using the freshly frozen food.
Length of Time
How long to freeze food
FROZEN FOOD DOES NOT LAST FOREVER!! All frozen food deteriorates over time and becomes unsafe to eat, even if thoroughly cooked. You want to make sure you are aware of the length of time a food is recommended to be frozen, and to eat the foods before that time is up.
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