Month: October 2018


Freezing FAQ

When it comes to freezing, there are so many topics related to it that questions about the method always crop up time and time again! Want to know more about freezing? In this guide, I have outlined the answers to some of the most common questions about freezing:

Is Refreezing Food Dangerous?

In almost any article about freezing food, there is always a warming that refreezing food is a big no-no. That you should never freeze again any piece of food that’s already been frozen and thawed because of food-borne poisoning risk. But is re-freezing really as dangerous as some people claim?

The Washington State Department of Health disagrees. In the linked article, it says that you can refreeze raw food like meat, poultry, etc., as long as the food has been thawed in the refrigerator. If the food has been thawed on the counter, it should be cooked immediately and re-freezing the thawed food is not safe. Similar information can be found on the website of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. According to these resources, refreezing food is safe as long as the food has been thawed properly, i.e. in the fridge. There’s even a New York Times article that debunks that myth.

As you can tell by now, the idea that you shouldn’t refreeze thawed food is just a myth. As long as you defrost food in the fridge, it’s safe to refreeze the unused portion. Obviously, we don’t always have the time to wait a couple of hours for food to thaw in the refrigerator. That’s why in our articles we highlight other thawing options too.

The easiest way to avoid having the need to refreeze food is to freeze it in portion-sized packages. This way, you can easily thaw as much as you need at a time.

Is Microwaving Food Bad for You?

While focuses on preserving food for longer by freezing, we love sharing a few tips related to healthy living every now and then.

The safety of microwaving food is a topic of an ongoing debate. There are people out there claiming that microwave ovens kill the nutrients in your food, which makes the food toxic. Others claim that microwaving foods could increase the risk of certain cancers. Some health experts dispute these claims for lack of evidence. So what’s the truth behind this? Is microwaving really dangerous?

Fortunately for microwave oven users, it seems that pretty much all of the fears related to microwaving foods are unfounded and there’s really nothing to be afraid of. If you’re interested in learning about how microwaving food works in terms of physics, check out this great article at Legion Athletics. Here are some of the takeaways from that article:

  • The radiation used by microwaves to warm up food is safe and doesn’t do your food much harm (it’s about as harmful as other cooking methods)
  • Microwaving plastic containers repeatedly may cause plastic chemicals to leach into microwaved food. To fix this, either switch to glass containers for microwaving or buy new plastic ones once if the plastic containers you’re using are worn out.

Flash Freezing

Tired of throwing huge chunks of food into the freezer and then dealing with a frozen lump that takes too much time to thaw later? If splitting a large portion of food is too much work, try flash freezing instead.

Flash freezing is a pre-treatment that helps tremendously with freezing many foods, including fruit, blanched vegetables, or portions of meat. When you buy French fries or frozen veggies, even though they come in a large bag, you can easily scoop the amount you need. That’s what flash freezing does for you!

Flash freezing makes food prep much easier. It’s an extra step that takes just a few minutes of work but the payoff is well worth the effort. By flash-freezing frozen foods, you can reduce prep time to a few minutes. There are no excuses for not flash-freezing food.

How to Flash Freeze Food

  1. Make sure there isn’t any unwrapped food with a strong smell in the freezer. Flash freezing requires you to put the food into the freezer without any wrapping. The food being prepped is likely to absorb unpleasant aromas or odors, which could alter its own flavor. And believe me, you don’t want that to happen. Eating a thawed banana that smells like meat is not a pleasant experience, to say the least.
  2. Grab a cookie sheet and make sure there’s a place in the freezer where you can lay it flat. This way, the food you put onto it won’t fall from it.
  3. Transfer the food onto the cookie sheet and spread it in a single layer so the pieces don’t stick to each other. The arrangement doesn’t have to be perfect, however. Some touching between pieces here and there is okay, you can separate the frozen bits after freezing.
    Vegetables on cookie sheet
  4. Put the cookie sheet into the freezer and leave it there until the food freezes solid. The time required for the food to freeze depends on the size of pieces and kind of food you’re using. Small pieces of food will freeze quickly (think an hour or two). Large chunks of food will take their sweet time to freeze solid, about 4 to 8 hours. Just to give the food enough time to freeze, leave the food in the freezer overnight. You can also put the food the freezer in the morning and take it out in the afternoon.
    Frozen veggies on cookie sheet
  5. Take the cookie sheet out of the freezer and transfer the frozen pieces into freezer bags or containers. Never leave foods unwrapped in the freezer because this will lead to freezer burns. That’s why we transfer the food into something more appropriate for long-term storage in the freezer.
    Frozen veggies in freezer bag

Flash Freezing Tips

  • Instead of a cookie sheet, you can use pretty much any flat surface that will fit into the freezer. Cover that surface with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap to make sure the food doesn’t stick to the surface once frozen.

Blanching Vegetables

Blanching is a process recommended as a pre-treatment before freezing most vegetables. Without blanching, many veggies lose some of their natural color, taste, and texture after freezing. Blanching counteracts changes by neutralizing the enzymes that cause these changes. In short, blanching helps in retaining the quality of the vegetable after freezing. Blanching is by no means necessary, but it gives you better end results.

Blanching consists of three stages: pre-heating the water, blanching, and cooling. First, we bring the water that we will use for blanching to a boil. Then we put the vegetables in the boiling water or steam for a short time. Finally, we cool them rapidly to stop the cooking process. For vegetables, the most common and fastest method of blanching is by putting the vegetables being blanched in boiling water, so we will focus on that in this guide.

However, feel free to steam the veggies instead. Just make sure you’re steaming them for long enough, about 2-3 times longer than you would keep if you are blanching the vegetables.

Please note that blanching makes sense only if you were to freeze the veggies raw. If you want to cook or bake the veggies before freezing, there’s no point in blanching.

How to Blanch Vegetables Before Freezing

  1. Prepare the veggies so they are ready to be used right away after thawing.
    Prepared veggies
  2. Put a pot of water on the oven.
    Pot of boiling water
  3. While the water is heating, prepare an ice bath for the veggies. Get a large pot of cold water and throw in some ice cubes if you have some on hand. If you blanch only a handful of veggies, feel free to skip the ice cubes.
    Cold water for cooling down
  4. Once the water in the pot is boiling, throw the prepared veggies into the pot. Put the lid on and wait until the water comes back to a boil.
    Bringing cauliflower back to a boil
  5. One the water is boiling again, start a timer and keep the veggies in the boiling water for the given time. The time the veggies should be kept in the boiling water depends on the type of vegetable you are blanching, the cut, size, and texture. It will usually fall between a minute for leafy greens and up to even 8-10 minutes for a whole corn on the cob.
    Water is boiling again
  6. Once that time passes, immediately transfer the veggies into the ice bath.
    Scooping blanched vegetables
  7. Leave the veggies in the cold water for at least 5 minutes.
    Transferring blanched veggies into cold water
  8. Pat the veggies dry thoroughly. While drying is technically not a part of blanching, the vegetables have to be completely dry before freezing. I usually shake off as much water from the veggies as I can. Then, I would assemble the blanched vegetables onto a dishcloth, and leave the veggies to dry for 30 minutes. Before proceeding further, I use paper towels to get rid of any remaining wet spots.
    Drying veggies

Tips and Tricks for Blanching

  • You can use a sink for the ice bath instead of a large pot.
  • If you have a large batch of veggies to blanch, there’s no need to throw all of them into the boiling water at once. You can do this in batches. Just remember to bring the water to a boil each time, and pour in some cold water to the ice bath and add some ice cubes every batch or two. In short, make sure the ice bath stays cold.

Are There Any Drawbacks of Blanching?

Of course, blanching has its drawbacks. The first one is that it takes time and is an additional step in the process. While the technique is by no means difficult, it can take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes to blanch a small batch of veggies. The best way to help mitigate that is to either do it while cooking other food or blanching a big batch.

Another drawback is that some of the nutrients are being lost in the process. Veggies leach water-soluble nutrients when being boiled. The temperature destroys some of the heat-sensitive ones too. But when you think about it, we do freeze vegetables to be cooked later. The process of cooking and re-heating the vegetables would happen either way so the net loss of nutrients is rather small.

Read more about blanching:


Freezing Tools

Freezing food doesn’t need much in terms of tools you need, besides having a freezer of course. Most of those tools you can surely find in your kitchen. But in case one or two is missing, I created this list. The tools listed below aren’t necessarily the best in their categories. They’re just some of the most popular choices out there.

Freezer Bags

Ziploc freezer bag

Freezer bags are the meat and potatoes of freezing. You can use them to freeze basically everything, including liquids. Make sure it’s leak-proof before putting a freezer bag with liquid into the freezer, though. They’re reusable, so after buying a bigger pack they should cover all your freezing needs for quite some time.

Consider buying a bunch of smaller bags and a handful of bigger ones. This way, you can pack individual portions into the smaller bags and transfer them into a bigger one to avoid chaos in the freezer. Since you can use these until they worn down, they’re both budget-friendly and much better for the environment. Freezer bags are a must-have if you freeze food on a regular basis.

Freezer Containers

Prep Naturals glass containers

These are another freezing staple. You can use freezer containers to freeze anything. They work best for freezing larger portions of food, soups, or as a way to group a few freezer bags. Having a few on hand, is in most cases, all you need. You can choose between plastic and glass containers. While plastic ones are cheaper, glass containers are more versatile. They’re safe to use in a microwave and often even in the oven. Choose ones that better suit your needs.

Plastic Wrap

Freeze tite plastic wrap

Plastic wrap is often used as a first layer of wrapping for long-term freezing or as the only layer of wrapping for short-term freezing. It works well for freezing meat (both raw and cooked), fish, dough (bread, pancake, etc.), and the like.

Many people use it to pack food in individual portions and then transfer those portions into a freezer bag or container. This way, it’s easy to get a portion or two without having to defrost the whole bag. The only downside of plastic wrap is that it’s not reusable. I wouldn’t recommend using it as your primary wrapping option, for both your budget’s and the environment’s sake.

Meal-Prep Containers

Enther meal prep containers

If you’re a meal-prepper or planning to become one, meal-prep containers are a must-have. You can choose between containers with 1, 2, or 3 compartments. Personally, I prefer the ones with 2 compartments. I can store my carbs and proteins in the bigger compartment and the veggies in the other one. But that’s just me, so think about the meals you’re going to be preparing and what containers would work best for your needs. Before buying make sure the containers are stackable and BPA-free.

Baking Sheet

Nordic ware baking sheet

A baking sheet is one of the best tools for pre-freezing food. It provides a flat surface on which you can put the food that needs to be pre-frozen and takes as little space in the freezer as possible. When buying one for pre-freezing, make sure it fits into your freezer.

Ice Cube Trays

OXO ice cube tray

Ice cube trays can be used to freeze all sorts of liquids. They’re often used for freezing dairy-free milk alternatives, yogurt, or even pureed fruit. If you’d like to freeze some almond milk for coffee, pour it into an ice cube tray, freeze, and it’s ready to go. You can now get as much of it as needed for your morning shot of caffeine in no time.

Cookie Scoop

Solula cookie scoop

If you need to freeze food portions of uniform size or weight, having a cookie scoop on hand might be a lifesaver. As an alternative, you can use a kitchen scale to make sure each portion is as big as the other ones, but that can take a ton of time. Using a cookie scoop for this purpose speeds things up significantly. Obviously, a cookie scoop has a ton of uses apart from freezing food, so it might make sense to buy one even if you won’t use it for freezing that often.