Weekly Wellness: The Correct Way to Freeze Food
COLUMBIA- If you’re like me, meal prep and freezer meals can be a real life saver. But is there a right and wrong way to freeze foods? Yes, there is. Here are some tips from experts about what we may be doing wrong when it comes to freezing certain foods:
- Freezing the wrong foods. Some tender salad greens (i.e. lettuce, mesclun) and watery veggies (i.e. cabbage, celery, cucumbers, endive, parsley, radishes) tend to become limp and water-logged which can negatively impact their flavor and texture. Baked or boiled potatoes become soft, crumbly and waterlogged (ewww). Also, never freeze plain pasta – but if it’s coated in sauce, it fairs better. Pastas and casseroles hold up well, too.
- Not freezing food quickly enough. When food freezes quickly there is less damage to the cell wall which can results in flavor and texture issues. If you defrost something and it’s really mushy, it probably froze too slowly. Freezing foods in smaller pieces can help. Also, it’s important to make sure that air can circulate around the food when it is first placed in the freezer.
- Putting hot food straight into the freezer. Putting hot food directly into the freezer is a no-go! It can bring down the temperature of the freezer and accidentally partially defrost whatever else you have in there. Repeated melting and freezing can cause bacteria growth and mess with both the texture and flavor of foods.
- Washing certain fruits and vegetables right before freezing them. The wetter a food is when you put it in the freezer, the greater the chance of freezer burn. Especially with fruits and vegetables. If you want to freeze these items, wash them and allow them to completely dry before putting them in the freezer.
- Not blanching produce ahead of time. Most vegetables need to be blanched before they’re frozen in order to stop the enzymatic decay process (the process responsible for deteriorating flavor, color and texture). Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, cook your veggie for a couple of minutes (until the color is more vibrant and texture more firm), let them cool by plunging them into ice water, drain and then put them in the freezer.
- Freezing fruit in big clumps. Spread out your fruit on a baking sheet or tray, pop it into the freezer for a few hours then put the already-frozen fruit into bags. No big clumps!
- Not freezing food in the right containers. Freezing food in airtight containers is the key to preserving their quality. The more air your food has access to, the more likely it is to dry out or develop freezer burn. Try freezer bags or a vacuum-packing system.
- Overpacking food containers. It’s important to pack all of your food with about ½ inch to 1.5 inch of space left on top. Freezing causes foods to expand so you want to give your food enough space to expand without breaking its storage vessel.
- Leaving food in the freezer for too long. Foods packaged in plastic storage containers or freezer bags will usually only last two or three months. Make sure to write the date and food on the item when you freeze it so you know when to pitch it!