Kitchen Hacks

Our Guide to Freezer-Friendly Foods

January  8, 2015

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Let's revisit last year's guide to freezer-friendly foods -- because we know you're stocking up for winter, yet again.

Freezer-Friendly Foods from Food52

Much like attics, freezers are scary. They’re dark, often deep, half storage receptacles, half places you shall never name. When you were 9 you swear you read a Goosebumps with one in it.  

Like everything you ever wore in the 80s, they house memories -- some good, some bad, some weird (like that time you wanted your soup to have a Moroccan thing going on, but you went off the cuff and added too much cinnamon).  

We have no idea how to deal with your attic. But let’s try to make that freezer of yours more of a happy place, shall we? Here’s a guide to what you should be filling your freezer with, what you shouldn’t, and, consequently, how to be a responsible adult. 

Freezer-Friendly Foods from Food52

The Rules to Live By
Your freezer is one of your best tools, but in order to make it work for you, there are a few principles you have to follow. First, throw out that scary soup. Next, toss anything that’s been in there for over a year. By now, it’s more likely to taste like freezer than whatever it was in its youth. (If you’re opposed to waste like we are, try it before you pitch it.)  

And, of course, make sure anything freezer-bound is completely cool before you freeze it -- or better, chill it in the fridge for a day first. 

Our Do-Not-Freeze List 
Never, under any circumstances, freeze the following things -- they will become unrecognizable, a textural nightmare of what they once were. 

• Uncooked batters (see: cake, pancake, waffle) with baking soda or powder used as the leavening agent. (Yeasted doughs, however, are fine.)
• Eggs -- in their shells, hard-cooked, or any egg-based sauces. You there, making all of the crème brûlée -- you may freeze your leftover, separated egg whites (or yolks) for up to a year.
• Cooked pasta. Just please don’t do this. (Fresh pasta-makers, though, have at that freezer.)
• Soft cheeses and cultured dairy, such as cream cheese, ricotta, or sour cream. 

Freezer-Friendly Foods from Food52

A Note on Dairy
Contrary to popular belief, you can, in fact, freeze cream and buttermilk, and soft cheeses like chevre, but their texture will be slightly affected by the acts of freezing and thawing. Same goes for the hard cheese you put in pesto. To be safe, we like to use any dairy we freeze for cooking only -- if that goat cheese is destined for a cheese plate, please buy it fresh -- and we’ll often leave cream out of our puréed vegetable soups and cheese out of our pestos that are destined for freezing. (Just stir it in when you reheat.) Looking to freeze extra butter? Go for it -- just use it up within 3 or 4 months. (You shouldn’t need help in this area, but if you do, go bake some pies.) 

Freezer-Friendly Foods from Food52

Cookies, Cakes, Pies, and Sweets
Good news -- you can get really ahead on dessert if you want to. Cakes and cheesecakes can be baked ahead, fully cooled, and stashed away for later. Cookies can be frozen in any stage -- dough (portioned dough balls if you’re smart), or already baked. Pie dough is fair game, too. Bake all nut, pecan, or custard pies ahead of time and freeze; for fruit pies, assemble just up to the point before you bake, and freeze that for when you’re ready, hungry, or have someone to impress. 

Be wary of freezing your homemade chocolate candy, as anything made with tempered chocolate has the potential to bloom. You’d better eat it all now. 

Vegetables & Beans
Before you fill your freezer with resolution-friendly fresh vegetables and beans, blanch them to help preserve their flavor, color, and texture. Have already-cooked vegetable purées or beans? Throw 'em in. 

Freezer-Friendly Foods from Food52

Fruit
If you’re freezing fruit to use in baking, no need to cook before you store (see: pies), but if you want to have fresh slices of apples or pears, say, you’re not in luck. Do not do this -- the temperature change, and the fact that water expands when it freezes, will make their texture suffer when you go to thaw. That being said, frozen fruit is perfect for blending in smoothies.

Raw Meats and Fish
Throw it in. Stock up. (Just remember to label clearly.) The main rule is, if it hasn’t already been frozen once in its lifetime, it’s good to go. (This goes for smoked salmon, too!) Refreezing previously thawed foods decreases their quality exponentially, and if meat or fish was thawed outside of the refrigerator, it could pose a food safety risk. 

Freezer-Friendly Foods from Food52  

Our Favorite Things to Freeze
Here’s what we’re stockpiling for the months ahead -- these are our favorite dishes that take to a cold stint in the freezer well, reheat beautifully, and bail us out when we find ourselves typing “wilted parsley hot sauce mustard dinner” into our search bar. 

Soups. All of the soups. (Just leave the cream and/or noodles out.)
• Casseroles. (Pastitsio, lasagne, and shepherd’s pie are all freezer-friendly; just freeze assembled dishes, unbaked, until you’re ready to have them for dinner.)
• Hummus. Believe it. Make a triple batch of this and you’ll be ready for any lunch, guest, or impromptu dinner party that comes your way.
Pizza dough, after its first rise. When pizza night arrives, thaw it, let it do its second rise, top, and bake. 

What freezer-friendly foods do you turn to? Tell us in the comments!  

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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76 Comments

ddm September 4, 2018
How do you keep track of what you have? AntoniaJames keeps a list on her phone - I tried lists but got lazy too often to be sure what was in there. I tried looking at a Solutions store for baskets, one for fruit, veg, chicken. etc to limit the rummaging around but they didn't have much. What they did have was too expensive for a test. Amazon was similar.<br /><br />I have a never ending plastic container for leftover gravy. Whenever we have a roast, I add the saved gravy to the new.
 
latasha T. August 6, 2018
Can we freeze scrambled eggs that are in dishes? like fried rice, breakfast burritos?
 
Denise March 18, 2018
I freeze dried beans, soaked and uncooked or fully cooked. Some cooked beans freeze well, but others get grainy? Does anyone know why? Is it the type of bean or the cooking or..?
 
Ellen January 28, 2018
Another item for the do not freeze list: hominy, as in posole. The freezer absolutely ruins the texture.
 
June January 28, 2018
I was surprised that potatoes were not mentioned, as the texture changes dramatically. I still freeze potatoes in soups, but diced instead of cubed or cut into chunks.
 
mela February 1, 2018
And carrot pieces get rubbery. I add them to soups at the thawing/reheating stage.
 
fricky1 January 24, 2018
What's the gripe with freezing cooked pasta? I'll prepare a box of dried pasta and freeze what I don't use immediately without noticing any appreciable decline in texture or flavor. I only do this with shapes such as penne, not with long noodles.
 
Zoe C. February 6, 2017
Tamales! Best thing to freeze ever. Thanks for this article Food52.
 
SaucyCuisine October 19, 2015
Nutmeg sauce is made with ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and freshly ground nutmeg. It's a tomato based sauce with the warmth of nutmeg and pares nicely with meatloaf. I like the sauce baked on top with extra for dipping. The recipe is here http://www.saucycuisine.com/2011/09/29/meat/meatloaf-with-nutmeg-sauce Hope you enjoy. The caramelized onions give it depth of flavor.<br />
 
pat A. October 17, 2015
Saucy Cuisine, what is nutmeg sauce? And, what is your recipe for meatloaf (with caramelized onions) as well? They both sound delicious.
 
KB July 12, 2015
My Dad, who lived to almost 102, loved sweet potatoes. My Mother would buy them by the bushel, roast them in huge batches, then freeze them whole, unpeeled. They were great thawed and eaten plain, mashed as a side dish, or cooked into casseroles, pies, etc.
 
DDlizzy January 29, 2015
When I find meat on sale, I stock up and freeze in meal-sized portions, adding marinade to the bag. As it thaws in the fridge, it marinates.
 
marcellatp January 9, 2015
My sister has an amazing Meyer lemon tree in her yard that produces three times its weight in lemons. I freeze bags and bags of lemon juice/zest that I use all year. I also have found the lemon curd freezes really well which is awesome because I haven't been able to find any good information on processing it to be shelf stable.
 
MrsWheelbarrow January 9, 2015
It is possible and wonderful to freeze raw milk for cheesemaking. I have to travel to buy raw milk and can't make all the cheese right away, but raw milk, defrosted, behaves exactly as fresh milk would.
 
Susan January 9, 2015
I couldn't survive without my little chest freezer. Besides serving as a repository for this year's garden produce, I stock it with single-serving dishes (soups, casseroles, breakfast burritos, etc.) that I can haul out for weekday meals. I also stock it with cooked grains like whole barley and farro, cooked beans, pizza dough, roasted eggplant, roasted squash - generally ingredients that take lengthy prep time. This way I can enjoy that roasted squash pasta dish at the end of a long day.
 
ajinthekitchen January 8, 2015
Chili and homemade apple sauce also freeze well.
 
Allison B. January 8, 2015
re: plastic storage bags - depending on where you live, these are recyclable if you rinse them out after use! but check first!
 
dzrgrl February 7, 2014
I often don't have time to put up tomato juice when my toms are ready so I clean em up and freeze then whole. Just put up 26 qts in Jan. Also have whole wild plums to turn into jelly.
 
awg January 23, 2014
Homemade yeast breads are a wonderful thing to have waiting to be liberated from your freezer, especially during winter. We are partial to Anadama, Challah and Swedish Cardamom Braid. Sometimes I get on a bread baking jag, and any extras get squirreled away for later. It's also lovely to be able to pull out on a moment's notice to send to an ill friend. Very healing! Eggplant Parmigiana, and soups of all kinds are other staples for us.
 
lilroseglow January 22, 2014
This article interested me because I constantly play the "cook ahead" game for week night meals. But I'm confused. On the "do not ever do" list is freeze cooked pasta. But on the freezer-friendly list is lasagna. So when can I freeze pasta and when is it a bad idea?
 
Heather W. January 8, 2015
The article suggests freezing the casseroles assembled, but not cooked.
 
ellenl January 8, 2015
But the lasagna noodles have to be cooked before assembling the lasagna, at least for my recipes. I have made it that way and put in the freever to bake later on and it has worked fine.
 
Claire H. June 5, 2016
I never precook lasagna noodles. You can give them a soak first or simply ensure its a saucey enough lasagna ( for moisture), cook covered tightly, and the noodles will cook every time! You'll never go back to time consuming pre cooking again;)
 
lilroseglow January 22, 2014
"And, of course, make sure anything freezer-bound is completely cool before you freeze it -- or better, chill it in the fridge for a day first"<br /><br />Why?