Don’t toss foods into the freezer willy-nilly and hope for the best! Storing them correctly preserves taste and texture.
Step 1: Label foods Label foods before freezing so you will always know how old they are. Write the contents and date on a piece of masking tape with a permanent marker.
Step 2: Know what not to freeze Don’t freeze lettuce, soft cheeses, puddings, sour cream, yogurt, or anything with mayonnaise. They’re perfectly safe to eat, but their taste and texture deteriorate too much to be appetizing. Raw egg whites can be frozen, but yolks tend to become thick, making it difficult to blend them with whites.
Step 3: Freeze leftovers with care Put leftover pasta in a freezer bag and squeeze out all the air. For soup, line a bowl with foil, pour in the soup, cover and freeze it, and then remove it from the bowl and put it in a freezer bag. For one-dish meals like stews or casseroles, put them in a glass, plastic, or foil container. To really keep them fresh, cover the container in plastic wrap, and then wrap the whole thing in foil.
TIP: When filling containers, allow an inch of space at the top for expansion, and store food in shallow containers. Remember this ditty: 'Two inches thick to cool it quick.'
Step 4: Blanch vegetables before freezing Boil raw vegetables for a couple of minutes before freezing to stop enzymes from discoloring them and compromising their flavor. Consult a cookbook or recipe web site for boiling times for specific vegetables. Drain, place in freezer bags or containers, and freeze.
Step 5: Freeze berries With berries, rinse, pat dry, spread them on a cookie sheet, and freeze. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to freezer-safe bags.
TIP: Most other fruits need to be packed in sugar or syrup to preserve their taste and prevent darkening. Visit the USDA web site for detailed instructions.
Step 6: Freeze tomatoes as-is Tomatoes can be frozen as-is—just rinse and dry them first. When you’re ready to use them, hold them under hot running water while they’re still frozen. The skin will fall right off.
TIP: Store-bought packages of frozen fruits and vegetables are less likely to form ice crystals if you place the packages in a freezer-safe bag before stashing them in your freezer.
Step 7: Keep meat fresh Freeze meat and poultry in their supermarket wrappers if you’re planning to consume them within a month or two. If you want to save them for longer, protect them in their packaging with an extra layer of heavy-duty foil.
Step 8: Keep fish on ice Put fresh fish in a freezer-safe bag or container, fill with water until the fish is just covered, and freeze.
Step 9: Double-bag nuts Store nuts by double-bagging them.
Step 10: Vacuum-seal foods If you freeze a lot of foods, consider investing in a vacuum-sealing machine, which extends their life by removing air from the packaging.
FACT: Freezer burn—which happens when air comes into contact with frozen food—may look unappetizing, but it doesn’t make food unsafe to eat.