Storing foods in the freezer is a great way to keep foods safe for a while. It doesn't kill bacteria, but the lower temperature leaves them dormant. However, if the temperature is compromised ( 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C)) because of the door is left open for an extendend period of time or a power outage, the bacteria could become active. It is also important to avoid crowding the freezer to keep the air circulating.
Cooling foods before putting them in the freezer is a good idea for two main reasons. First, outer edges of a hot dish will freeze first but the inside might not freeze fast enough to keep the food from spoiling. Second, hot foods will raise the temperature inside the freezer.
When preparing to freeze:
- It is best to cool as quickly as possible.
- The fastest way to cool is to place the dish or pan of hot food in a sink of ice water, or in a larger pan of ice water (whatever fits). For hot liquids like soups, stir to ensure it cools evenly.
- Portion cooled foods into meal-sized containers, cover, label and place in coldest area of the freezer until frozen. Rearrange as needed.
Poorly wrapped or stored foods can suffer freezer burn, which is a loss of moisture that can affect taste and texture. Poor wrappings can also cause the transfer of smells or tastes to other foods. The key thing is to use an airtight container.
- When using plastic bags, ensure that they can be sealed, and be sure to squeeze out all of the air before closing it.
- When using rigid containers, use small containers (no more than a quart capacity) that can be sealed securely with a tight fitting lid.
- In general, leave as little air as possible in the container. However, with liquids, leave a little room to allow for expansion.
- If foods did not come in its own freezable container, feel free to rewrap it!
- Freezer wrappings should be vapor and moisture proof.
- The safest way to thaw frozen foods, albeit slow, is in the refrigerator. This takes some planning ahead as it may take a few hours.
- You can thaw faster by placing the food in a plastic bag and running it under cool water, or bathing it in cold water.
- The microwave's defrost setting is the fastest way to thaw foods, but be ready to cook the food immediately afterward.
- Thawing at room temperature, especially meats, is a bad idea, with the exception of breads and other baked goods. This can release unsafe toxins in thawed portions of food, that are still unsafe to eat even after cooking.