Before we introduce freezer cooking, let’s all be real with one other. K? The benefits of home cooked food are many: You know what’s in it, you save money, and with a few little upgrades – you know it’s good for you.
But really, who has all that time?
All the cutting, chopping, mashing, marinading, sautéing, braising…each step involves so much work and you could literally spend half your day in the kitchen trying to get it all done.
So, even though you may have every intention of pulling together one glorious home cooked meal after another, reality sets in and you order a pizza instead.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When you meal plan, not only do you know what you’ll eat for the next week or two, you also know what you need in advance. Which means you can prep your food beforehand. And dinner can be as easy as pulling a casserole from your fridge, popping it in the oven, and sprinkling it with a handful of fresh herbs once you set it out on the table.
Curious to know the secret? It’s all made possible with freezer cooking.
An introduction to freezer cooking
Freezer cooking means cooking and freezing both meals and separate ingredients to use later on.
Freezer cooking isn’t only for folks who want to shop, prep, and cook their weeks in advance. It’s for anyone who wants to spend a little less time in the kitchen without sacrificing the quality of home-cooked food. In a nutshell: get it done now, so you don’t have to do it later.
The best and worst foods to freeze
Some foods fare better in ultra-cool temps than others. As a general rule, you want to season and salt food lightly before freezing and add more spices later when reheating.
The best foods to freeze
One-pot wonders will usually do well in your freezer. This includes casseroles, stews, and chilis. You can also freeze smaller meals fit for one person, like these breakfast burritos.
Hearty greens and veggies do best when chopped, blanched, and quickly frozen before storage.
Meat does well when frozen. Just be sure to defrost it in your refrigerator so that you can refreeze, if necessary. When freezing cooked meat, such as ground beef, freeze into half pound or one pound portions so that you can easily grab and use them later.
Uncooked eggy casseroles or frittatas do well when frozen – simply prepare as you usually would. However, instead of baking it, freeze it until firm and then cover with foil for longterm storage.
The toughest foods to freeze
You can freeze dairy, but it doesn’t always hold up well. There are ways around this – such as simply stirring it or cooking with it. Sour cream and cream cheese are the toughest to cook with after frozen.
Skip the fried food. It generally becomes soggy after freezing.
Eggs in their shells. While you could freeze whole eggs, you don’t want to do it while they’re still in their shells.
You’ll also notice a change in texture when freezing fruit and greens. This has to do with their water content. For the best results, reserve frozen fruits and greens for sauces, jams, salsas, and smoothie ingredients.
Tools you’ll need for freezer cooking
When freezing soups, stews, casseroles, frittatas, and chilis – use freezer safe glass bakeware.
If you’re limited on space, you can also use freezer safe ziploc bags and lay them flat when freezing. Make your ziplocs easier to fill by getting a set of bag holders. They hold your ziplocs open while you ladle it full.
Fruit, baked goods (like paleo flatbread, waffles, or pancakes), and raw hamburgers do best when quickly frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet. Then move these items into long-term storage. To ensure they don’t stick together, layer parchment paper between each piece.
You can freeze most leftover sauces and dips in a silicone ice cube tray. After they’ve frozen, pop them out and store them in a freezer safe bag.
Same goes for unused fresh green herbs – simply chop up, cover with olive oil, and freeze in an ice cube tray – just be sure your herbs are fully submerged in oil.
Finally, keep a sharpie nearby and get in the habit of labeling frozen food. When storing food in glass, use freezer tape. Something as simple as the name of your dish/food, the date, and short cooking instructions (like “oven 375 / 50 minutes”) can help keep you organized and your food delicious.