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What Foods Can Be Frozen and for How Long?

Now that you know why it is important to freeze food and what to do and not do to make certain your food is at its best when you are ready to serve it . . .

There are two more important facts you need to know:

  1. What foods are best to freeze and which ones you probably shouldn’t? Not because they will go bad, but because they change during the process resulting in textural variations such as sogginess, or ingredients that will separate as they thaw and become watery.

  2. How long you can freeze foods without their losing their flavor or texture?

Here is a list of foods that freeze and thaw well:

  • Fruits: berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), sliced bananas, sliced peaches, mango chunks, grapes (can be frozen for snacking or used as ice cubes), and citrus segments (peeled and separated) freeze well. I keep blueberries in the freezer to snack on when I want something sweet.

  • Many vegetables can be frozen: peas, corn, green beans, broccoli florets, spinach, bell peppers, zucchini and cauliflower florets to name a few. Blanching vegetables before freezing is a great way to preserve their color, texture, and nutritional content. Dip them briefly in boiling water (a minute) and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. Lay them out to dry completely before freezing.

  • Raw and cooked meats like chicken, beef, pork, lamb, steaks, chops, and ground meat can all be frozen.

  • Most fish and seafood can also be frozen, including fillets, shrimp, scallops, and crab meat, etc. It’s best to freeze them as soon as you get them home to preserve their freshness.

  • Breads, rolls, muffins, cookies, and cakes (unfrosted) generally freeze well. Make sure they are completely cooled before wrapping and freezing them in airtight containers or freezer bags.

  • Soups, stews, and sauces can be frozen in individual portions or larger batches. They are ideal candidates for freezing.

  • Butter, grated cheese, shredded cheese, and yogurt can be frozen. You can also freeze milk but make certain to leave space for the liquid to expand and, once thawed, shake it well to recombine. There is a debate about whether you can freeze cottage cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese; the answer is yes, you can—though the consistency will change once thawed; I recommend using them, thawed, for cooking or baking where the texture won’t matter.

Though many ingredients freeze very well, here are some you should avoid:

  • Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale have high-water content, which can lead to wilting and a mushy texture when frozen and thawed.

  • Cucumbers, radishes, celery, watercress, endives, and cabbage do not freeze well due to their high water content. They are best enjoyed fresh in salads and or other dishes without freezing.

  • If you want to freeze eggs, beat them well and freeze them in airtight containers. Don’t freeze eggs in their shells; they will break during expansion.

If you have extra egg whites, freeze them individually in an ice cube tray and then place them in an air-tight container.

Freezing egg yolks is a little different. To prevent the yolk from becoming paste-like and therefore unusable, you’ll need to add either a pinch of salt or 1/3 teaspoon of sugar, depending on whether you will use them in something savory or sweet.

They need to be thawed overnight in the refrigerator and used right away.

  • Sauces and soups that are made with milk or cream can separate or become grainy when thawed. To avoid that, I prefer to add the dairy after the food is thawed and I’m heating it to serve.

  • Fried foods, such as French fries, breaded chicken, or fried appetizers, tend to lose their crispy texture when frozen and reheated. They can become soggy or lose their original texture and flavor.

  • Mayonnaise and salad dressings can separate and become watery when thawed. It’s better to store them in the refrigerator where they will keep their consistency.

  • Cooked pasta will lose its texture and become mushy when frozen and reheated. It's best to cook pasta fresh or refrigerate it for short-term storage rather than freezing it.

  • Potatoes do not freeze well. If I am going to put them in a soup or stew, I prefer to wait and add them after I’ve thawed the dish. I find that I don’t have a problem if I’ve made leek and potato soup or mashed potatoes. I simply stir vigorously as I reheat the food to regain its consistency. The flavor isn’t affected at all.

Here are some guidelines for how long to store frozen foods:

  • Meat and Poultry:

Raw ground meat: 3 to 4 months

Raw steaks, chops, and roasts: 4 to 12 months

Raw poultry pieces: 9 months

Cooked meat or poultry: 2 to 6 months

  • Fish and Seafood:

Lean fish (cod, flounder, etc.): 6 months

Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, etc.): 2 to 3 months

Shellfish (shrimp, scallops, etc.): 3 to 6 months

  • Fruits and Vegetables:

Berries: 8 to 12 months

Other fruits (except citrus): 10 to 12 months

Citrus fruits: 3 to 4 months

Vegetables (blanched): 8 to 12 months

  • Baked Goods:

Breads and rolls: 2 to 3 months

Cakes (unfrosted): 4 to 6 months

Cookies: 6 to 12 months

  • Prepared Meals:

Casseroles and stews: 2 to 3 months

Soups and broths: 2 to 3 months

Pizza: 1 to 2 months

  • Dairy and Eggs:

Butter: 6 to 9 months

Cheese (hard and semi-hard): 6 to 12 months

Eggs: up to 4 months

It's important to note that the quality and flavor of frozen foods can gradually decline over time. Be sure to label containers with the date of freezing and follow the rule: first-in, first-out to ensure freshness.

Your freezer is one of the best timesaving tools in your kitchen. Use it to your advantage and when you’re wondering what’s for dinner, go to your freezer.

Links to the 3 part series on freezing foods


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