Sometimes you need just a handful of this or a little bit of that: berries for a smoothie, a single hot dog to satisfy a hungry child, or a slice of cheesecake to finish off a meal. That's why it's worth it to "flash freeze" individual portions of food so they're ready and waiting in the freezer, in the exact quantities you need.
What Is Flash Freezing?
In food-industry terms, flash freezing (also known as blast freezing) refers to freezing foods at extremely low temperatures with cold, circulating air. This quick-chill method keeps ice crystals small, which prevents moisture loss in the food when it thaws.
For the home cook, however, flash freezing refers to the practice of freezing individual pieces of food separately (usually spread out on a baking sheet or tray), then packing the frozen food in airtight containers or freezer bags or wrapping with foil or plastic wrap for longer storage. The first step of this process keeps individual pieces of food from fusing together during the freezing process. Flash freezing allows the cook to thaw and use just the amount of food needed, rather than thawing larger volumes of the food all at once.
Foods That Can Be Flash Frozen
Whether raw or cooked, just about any food that comes in individual pieces--or can be broken or cut into individual pieces--can be flash frozen. The best candidates, however, are those foods that freeze well in general and are particularly useful in smaller portions. A few ideas:
Foods That Should Not Be Flash Frozen Because they loose flavor, texture, or overall quality when frozen, these foods are not suitable for flash freezing:
What You Need to Flash Freeze Foods
Tip: For easier cleanup, line the baking sheet or tray with parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap before adding the food.
Tip: Do not use foil to wrap foods that contain acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes or lemon juice. Acid reacts with aluminum foil, giving food an off flavor. Instead, use plastic freezer wrap.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food stored continually at temperatures of 0°F or below will always be safe to eat. That's because freezing prevents the growth of the microorganisms that cause food-borne illness. However, after time, frozen foods might lose flavor, texture, or overall quality. Therefore, use foods within the times suggested here:
Thawing Flash-Frozen Food
Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave, never at room temperature (a few exceptions include breads and sweets that can safely be stored at room temperature).