Tips for Freezing Fresh Produce and Meat
Take advantage of those grocery store sales and fresh farmers market produce. These tips that will help you freeze almost everything on your grocery list, including fruits, veggies, meat, and seafood, so you can keep your kitchen fully stocked at all times.
Freezing is an easy way to save food for later, including fresh produce, meat, and seafood. But you can't just toss everything in your freezer. To make sure your extra veggies, in-season fruits, and spare meat are still good to use a few months down the road, follow our tips for freezing food while maintaining the best quality. If you do it right, you can save yourself time (and money!) making and freezing healthy dinners and on-the-go breakfasts.
How to Freeze Fruit
Freezing fresh fruits is a great way to lock in their juiciness and flavor, and it can also take care of some of the prep work for fruit desserts and pies. Depending on the fruit you're freezing, the steps for the best results are slightly different. But in general, start by looking for fruits that are ripe and still firm.
Blanch Some Fruits First
Some fruits (and veggies) should be blanched before freezing. Blanching means briefly boiling in water, then immediately transferring food to an ice bath. Blanching helps some fruits keep their flavor, color, and texture over time. When you're freezing peaches or other stone fruits or freezing rhubarb, you should blanch before freezing.
Related: How to Freeze Herbs
Slice or Leave Them Whole
For larger fruits, like when you are freezing apples, pears, and peaches, cut them into slices first. This will help you fit more fruit in your freezer, and it'll make them easier to use later since your prep work will already be done! When you're freezing berries or other small fruits like cherries, leave them whole. They don't take up as much space as larger fruits, and they're too delicate to slice before freezing.
Choose a Packing Method
Many fruits are frozen with added liquid or sugar (or both), which helps them keep their texture and flavor over time in the freezer. There are four different packs you can choose from when you're freezing fruits, though some are better for certain fruits than others. Here's a quick guide to the four different kinds of packs:
- Unsweetened or dry pack: Add no sugar or liquid to the fruit; simply pack in a container. This works well for small whole fruits, such as berries.
- Water pack: Cover the fruit with water. You can also use unsweetened fruit juice instead.
- Sugar pack: Place a small amount of fruit in the container and sprinkle lightly with sugar; repeat layering. Cover and let stand about 15 minutes or until juicy; seal.
- Syrup pack: Cover fruit with a syrup of sugar and water.
Tip: Before filling your containers, make sure they're freezer-safe. Most plastic containers should be safe to freeze, but not all glass jars are—and if you use one that isn't freezer-safe, it can break in your freezer. Even freezer-safe jars can crack if you overfill them, so make sure to leave the right amount of headspace specified in your recipe. If you want to reuse ziplock plastic bags, be sure to wash and thoroughly dry them before reusing. If any bit of food is left, there's a chance for bacterial growth.
Know How Long Your Fruit Will Last
Some fruits will last longer in the freezer than others, so to avoid wasting food, it's important to know how long each one will keep. To help you keep track of how long each container has been in the freezer, be sure to label each one with the date it was first frozen.
- 3 months for peeled bananas
- 6 months for sliced stone fruit (like peaches and plums)
- 6 months for sliced melons
- 6 months for destemmed whole berries
- 6 months for sliced apples
- 1 year for sliced rhubarb
How to Freeze Vegetables
Hang on to those garden veggies for the rest of the year! You'll want to blanch most veggies before freezing them, but you don't have to worry about choosing a pack for your containers. Whether you're freezing tomatoes, fresh green beans, or extra zucchini, here are a few tips for freezing vegetables that will help you savor them for months to come.
Give Your Containers Space
Whether you use freezer bags or other freezer containers, your veggies (and fruits, too!) will freeze better if you give them some space between containers. When you first add your containers to the freezer, especially if you're using freezer bags, don't stack them up right away. Instead, leave space between each container and bag so the cold air can circulate around them. Your veggies will freeze more quickly this way; once they're frozen, you can stack them to save freezer space.
Use Them While They're Frozen
No need to thaw your veggies when you're ready to use them. Vegetables will have the best texture if you cook them straight from frozen, which can make whipping up a quick side dish for dinner even speedier since all your prep is done.
How to Freeze Meat and Seafood
While stocking your freezer with frozen chicken, ground beef, and fish fillets can definitely come in handy down the road, don't make the mistake of thinking your frozen meat will stay good forever. Follow these tips for freezing your meat so nothing goes to waste.
Use Freezer Bags and Foil
Before putting it in the freezer, wrap the meat tightly with heavy-duty foil or freezer paper so no juices leak out. If you're planning to keep the meat in your freezer for two months or more, place the wrapped meat in a freezer bag (to prevent leaks, you might want to use a freezer bag anyway, even if you plan to use your meat soon).
To freeze fish, arrange fillets in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap, then place in the freezer for two hours or until firm. Once the fish is frozen, you can transfer the fillets to an airtight freezer bag.
Know How Long Your Meat Will Last
Don't let freezer burn ruin your meat and seafood. For the best quality, make sure you're using frozen meat, poultry, and seafood within the time frame listed below:
- 1 year for whole chickens and turkeys
- 9 months for individual chicken and turkey parts
- 6 months to 1 year for steaks
- 4 to 6 months for chops
- 4 months to 1 year for roasts
Fish and Seafood
- 3 months for fresh lean fish
- 6 months for shrimp
- 3 months for mussels, squid, and scallops
- Even though fish and seafood will last for a few months in the freezer, for the best quality try to use it up within 30 days.
Stock your freezer with confidence! With the help of our tips, you can make weeknight dinners and meal prep easier. Freezing food can also help you save money on groceries—if you have the space in your freezer, take advantage of grocery store sales and buy in bulk, and save in-season produce to use throughout the rest of the year.