Make-Ahead Freezing Foods
Helpful hints on making the most of your freezer.
Fridge and Freezer Facts
Follow these basic guidelines to ensure the best flavor, texture, aroma, and overall enjoyment from the food you store. To make sure your freezer and refrigerator maintain the proper temperatures for safe food storage, use refrigerator and freezer thermometers.
- To check refrigerator temperature: Place the thermometer in a glass of water set in the middle of the refrigerator. Check the temperature in 5 to 8 hours. If the temperature is not between 34 degrees F and 40 degrees F, adjust the refrigerator temperature control according to the manufacturer's directions, and check again in 5 to 8 hours.
- To check freezer temperature: Place the thermometer between frozen food packages. Check in 5 to 8 hours. If the temperature is not 0 degrees F or colder, adjust the freezer temperature control according to the manufacturer's directions, and check again in 5 to 8 hours.
To Freeze or Not to Freeze
These foods lose flavor, texture, or overall quality when frozen:
- Whole eggs in the shell, whether raw or cooked
- Cooked egg whites and yolks, as well as cake icings made with egg whites
- Cottage and ricotta cheeses
- Sour cream
- Battered and fried foods
- Soups and stews thickened with cornstarch and flour (which tend to lose their thickening capacity when frozen)
- Soups and stews with potatoes, which can darken and become mushy when frozen
- Luncheon meats
- Stuffed chops or chicken breasts
- Store-cooked convenience meals
- Mashed potatoes
Cool It Quickly
Whether you are preparing hot food for storage in the refrigerator or in the freezer, it is essential to cool the food quickly for two reasons. First, speed decreases the chance for harmful bacteria to grow, keeping your food safe to eat. Second, if you're freezing food, it allows the food to freeze faster, preventing the formation of large ice crystals that may ruin the flavor and texture of foods. For quick cooling follow these guidelines:
- Divide cooked foods into small portions and shallow containers for rapid cooling. A general rule: For soups and stews, divide into portions that are 2 to 3 inches deep. Stir soups and stews to speed the release of heat. For roasts and whole poultry, divide into portions that are 2 to 3 inches thick. Place the smaller portions of hot food directly into the refrigerator to chill rapidly.
- If the final destination is the freezer, transfer cooled food from the refrigerator to the freezer. Arrange containers in a single layer in the freezer until frozen. This allows the cold air to circulate around the packages, freezing the food faster. Stack them after they are completely frozen.