Advantages of freezing home-prepared foods:
- Foods are prepared at your convenience and time is saved by doubling or
tripling recipes that require a lot of preparation time. Extras are frozen for
- The oven is used more efficiently by baking more than enough for one meal
at a time.
- Waste is avoided by freezing leftover prepared foods and serving them
later as "planned overs."
- Special diet foods, baby foods or single portions can be prepared in
quantity and frozen for later use.
- Freezing is an expensive form of food preservation if the cost of the
freezer, packaging and energy are considered.
- Cooking, freezing and reheating require more energy than simply preparing
enough food for one meal at a time.
- Most prepared foods have a short storage life compared to frozen fruits,
vegetables and meat.
- Unless you have a microwave oven, thawing time must be considered for many
Preparing to freeze
Freezing Basics, for information on the freezing process, including
packaging. Refer to specific food items that follow for information on
preparing, thawing and using prepared foods and recommended length of freezer
storage time at 0°F or lower. Foods will still be safe to eat after the
recommended storage time if the freezer temperature has been kept at 0 degrees
F; however, quality will be lower.
- If you aren't sure if the quality of a prepared food will be acceptable,
freeze a small portion the first time.
- Slightly undercook prepared foods that will be reheated before serving to
help avoid overcooking. This is especially important for dishes containing
- Cool foods quickly for safety and freshness. Cool hot prepared foods such
as main dishes and sauces quickly in their original pan placed in a larger
pan, in a sink filled with ice water. Keep foods covered to prevent
contamination and loss of aroma and moisture. Change ice water frequently.
Foods can also be cooled in their original container by placing them directly
into the refrigerator. When cool, package and freeze immediately. This is
especially important when preparing large amounts of food. It is absolutely
unsafe to cool foods containing meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy
products at room temperature because this increases the likelihood of food
spoilage and resulting foodborne illness.
- Package foods in the appropriate freezer containers or wraps in the
amounts you will use at one time.
Freezing Basics, for basic packaging information. Prepared food may also
be frozen directly in the casserole or baking dish. If the dish has a cover,
it can be used. However, it is important to first put a layer of plastic wrap
directly on the food surface to prevent moisture loss and seal the edges with
freezer tape. Straight-sided dishes can be freed for other uses by lining them
with heavy-duty aluminum foil before filling. After the product has been baked
and frozen, remove it from the dish, complete wrapping, seal, label and freeze
immediately. Use the same dish later to reheat and serve the food.
Note: Cold glass dishes may break if put into a preheated oven unless
the manufacturer specifies that the dish is freezer to oven safe.
- A timesaver: Package foods to be reheated in a microwave oven in
freezer/microwave safe containers.
- Cheese or crumb toppings for casseroles should be added when the dish is
being heated to serve. If put on before freezing, these toppings become soggy
or too dry.
- Use leftovers to make your own "TV dinners." Fill divided foil trays,
cover tightly with aluminum foil and overwrap with freezer paper or a freezer
bag. If foods are to be reheated in a microwave oven, use microwave-safe
- Freeze in small amounts those handy extras that are needed occasionally
for special recipes: lemon and orange rind, grated cheese, crumbled bacon,
bread or cookie crumbs or croutons.
Thawing and preparing
Most main dishes can be reheated with or without
Note: Thawing of foods containing meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy
products must be done in the refrigerator, and these foods must be kept chilled
There is no absolute rule as to how long frozen main dishes such as
casseroles should be reheated. If no time is given in this guide, these tips may
help: Use the oven setting at which the dish was originally cooked. Start with
less than double the original cooking time. For example, if a casserole was
originally cooked for 30 minutes, start with about 50 minutes from the frozen
state, but check it carefully toward the end of the 50 minutes to prevent
overcooking. Appearance is a good clue for casserole-type dishes. Their edges
should be bubbling and the center should be hot.
For speedy reheating of foods such as noodle casseroles or creamy foods
without excessive stirring, heat in a double boiler. Start with warm, not hot,
water in the lower pan to prevent food from sticking and becoming mushy. Partial
thawing in the refrigerator will speed up the heating process and result in more
even heat penetration.
Microwave ovens do an excellent job of reheating frozen prepared foods
without that "warmed over" flavor. Refer to individual manufacturer's directions
Because of their low water content, most baked goods, except fruit pies, thaw
rapidly. It is safe to thaw baked goods, except those with filling, at room
temperature. Keep baked products in their original wrapping to prevent drying
out and to keep moisture from condensing on the surface.
How to Freeze Eggs
Baked products and doughs :
Baked quick breads:Biscuits — Prepare and bake until light
brown. Cool, package and freeze. To serve hot, heat unthawed at 350°F
for 15 to 20 minutes. Freezer storage time: 2 to 3 months. Frozen unbaked
biscuits are smaller and less tender when baked.
Quick breads (Nut, fruit, coffeecake and gingerbread) — Prepare and
bake as usual. Cool, package and freeze. Thaw in wrapping at room temperature.
Slice fruit and nut breads while still partially frozen to avoid crumbling.
Freezer storage time: 2 to 4 months.
Muffins — Prepare and bake as usual. Cool, package and freeze. Thaw in
wrapping at room temperature for one hour. Or, heat unthawed at 300°F
for 20 minutes. Freezer storage time: 6 to 12 months. Frozen unbaked muffins
have a poor texture when baked.
Waffles — Prepare batter as usual and bake to a light brown. Cool, and
package with a double sheet of freezer paper between them for easy removal.
Freeze. Reheat without thawing in a toaster, under a broiler or on a baking
sheet in a 400°F oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Freezer storage time: 1 to 2
Doughnuts — Prepare as usual. Cool, package and freeze. Yeast
doughnuts freeze better than cake-type. Glaze soaks into doughnuts when frozen
and thawed, so apply glaze just before serving. Thaw in wrapping at room
temperature. Freezer storage time: 3 to 4 weeks.
Yeast breads:Bread, coffeecake and rolls (baked) — Prepare as
usual. Cool, package and freeze. Thaw at room temperature. Freezer storage time:
3 months for baked and 6 to 8 months for partially baked.
Brown and serve rolls — Prepare as usual, but let rise slightly less
after shaping. Bake at 275°F for 20 minutes. Do not brown. Cool, package
and freeze. Thaw in wrapping at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Bake at
425 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes or until light brown. If undercrust is too
moist, bake on cooling rack instead of baking sheet. Length of freezer storage:
6 to 8 months.
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