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Foods you can freeze, and those you should you never freeze

By Rachel Hosie

Roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption across the world is wasted every year. This equates to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food being thrown away – which is a cost to the environment and our bank accounts. But one incredibly helpful tool in the crusade against food waste is the freezer.

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However, many of us aren’t sure what the rules are when it comes to freezing food.

Which foods are safe to freeze? How long can you keep something in the freezer for? Should you freeze food when raw or cooked?

Speaking on Australia’s Today show, Dr Joanna McMillan dispelled some of the myths around freezing foods and revealed which ingredients many of us don’t know can be safely frozen, such as eggs and herbs.

“Freezing is a really amazing way of preserving our food because you don’t have to use chemical preservatives,” Dr McMillan said.

“It’s actually one of the oldest means of preserving foods […] I think we under-utilise the freezer in today’s age where we think everything that’s fresh is better for us and it’s actually not the truth.”

However it’s worth bearing in mind that freezing doesn’t completely remove bacteria, so if something is on the verge of going bad, it may be too late to pop it in the freezer.

Lunchboxes in a freezer There are simple guidelines you can follow to help you reduce your food waste, make your money go further and keep food fresher longer.

Foods you can freeze:

  • Cooked pasta
  • Cooked rice
  • Nuts (many people don’t realise nuts can go rancid due to the high levels of fat they contain)
  • Flour – you can use it directly from the freezer
  • Butter
  • Grated cheese
  • Bananas, peeled
  • Bread, in slices, as loaves or breadcrumbs
  • Herbs
  • Stock
  • Wine
  • Eggs, cracked into small containers
  • Meat, both raw and cooked

Foods you shouldn’t freeze:

  • Milk – it becomes lumpy once thawed (but this can be OK for cooking)
  • Deep-fried food – after defrosting, the crispy coating will turn to mush
  • Sour cream – again, it can be alright for cooking but will separate after freezing
  • Dishes with crumb toppings – you’ll lose the crispness and it’ll go soggy.

Freezing tips:

  • Let all food reach room temperature before freezing.
  • Make the most of your ice cube tray – Dr McMillan suggests blending herbs with water or olive oil and freezing in a tray, wine can also be frozen as ice cubes which you can use to keep your drink cool without diluting it or pop it into your cooking, and stock can also be frozen in a tray.

Freeze herbs, stocks and wine in ice cube trays

  • Make sure everything is frozen in a sealable container or bag.
  • Meat in particular needs to be properly wrapped.

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  • Be aware that anything that has a high water content, like lettuce, won’t be exactly the same after being frozen and then defrosted.
  • Try to freeze everything when at its freshest.
  • Defrost meat thoroughly before cooking, but other items such as bread for toasting can be cooked straight from the freezer.
  • Never refreeze raw meat that has been frozen and then thawed – you can, however, freeze cooked meat that was frozen when raw.
  • Make sure the freezer isn’t packed so full that air can’t circulate.

How long can you keep food in the freezer?

As a general rule, nothing should be kept in the freezer for longer than nine months to a year, but there is variation amongst different food items.

Freeze herbs, stocks and wine in ice cube trays

Here’s the maximum of time you can keep certain foods frozen before thawing:

  • Poultry, whole:a year
  • Steak: a year
  • Blanched vegetables:a year
  • Fruit in syrup:a year
  • White fish:eight months
  • Open packs of frozen fruit: eight months
  • Unsalted butter: eight months
  • Fruit juice:six months
  • Lamb/pork/beef/chicken/turkey/duck/goose/venison/rabbit:six months
  • Bread:six months
  • Cakes:six months
  • Stocks:six months
  • Oily fish:four months
  • Pastries:four months
  • Salted butter:four months
  • Ice cream:four months
  • Sliced bacon:three months
  • Soups and sauces:three months
  • Bread dough:three months

Make the most of your freezer to make your life easier – and help save the planet at the same time.
Credit: The Independent (UK)

10 thoughts on “Foods you can freeze, and those you should you never freeze

  1. You can also freeze vegetables: Before freezing vegetables, blanch and shock vegetables by boiling them briefly, drain, then plunge into ice water. Dry thoroughly. Freeze fruits and vegetables quickly by spreading them in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan. Store in air-tight containers or freezer bags.

    1. Thanks, Ted – good info! And to save water, contain and re-use that water that you’re rinsing the veggies with – and use it for boiling the veggies – then re-use the water to flush your toilet 😉

          1. I was not referring to the water used to wash the fruits and vegetables. I was referring to the water used to blanch the vegetables before freezing. That’s good vegetable stock.

    2. Exactly. We have a large freezer in our bodega and I bought fresh fruit and vegetables and spent a few days preparing them and freezing them for future times when I couldn’t get to a mercado.

  2. I’ve been freezing skim or fat free milk for years. I’ve never had it turn lumpy…maybe I’m very lucky for the last 40+ years or it becomes lumpy due to the fat in full fat milk?

  3. Thanks, Susan, and others chiming in!
    Little food goes to waste around our house through careful planning and keeping foods prone to wilt in a spot where we can keep an eye on. A pull-out basket to check items toward the back helps.
    Dogs and birds are usually game for food that’s a bit “long in the tooth!”
    I save energy by defrosting in the fridge – again, plan ahead, and keep reading.
    Buy a thermometer to assure that fridge stays at or below 40F (4.4 C) and freezer stays at 0F (-17.8 C) – low enough to keep foods like ice cream solid. Move the thermometer around to locate “zones” above these safe boundaries.
    From TODAY and FDA>
    “ . . . if you’re still in the safe window for cooking and eating meat, poultry or fish, it’s perfectly safe to refreeze them, provided that the foods were thawed in the refrigerator and kept cold (40 degrees or below).”
    Power outage? Move thermometer to freezer. “Thawed or partially thawed foods that were in your freezer can be safely refrozen if the food has not gone above 40 degrees. “
    Cool tips (npi!)!
    “Frozen peas, corn, beans, berries and small pieces of fish like shrimp and scallops should not be a solid block of food,” said Stack. “This may also be a sign of defrosting and refreezing for these foods.”
    “The side door storage areas usually get a little warmer so the food might soften or start to defrost.”
    More info from FDA >

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