Cristina's helpful hints for freezing cooked food
- Freezer temperatures should never go above 0°.
- Don't let food stand at room temperature longer than 30 minutes before freezing. You can also cool food to refrigerator temperatures before bagging or placing it in a container for your freezer.
- Use "freezer" bags, not "storage" bags, because they're thicker and will keep foods fresher. I like to use these because I can stack them and they take up less room in the freezer. These are great for stuffing, sauces, stews and soup. If I'm freezing soup, I use two bags in case there is a leak, that way I have a safety net. (Get my recipe for Hearty Vegetable Minestrone.)
- Use plastic containers with a moisture-proof seal. Covers should fit tightly. If not, you can reinforce by using freezer tape designed to stick at freezing temperatures.
- If using glass jars, use rubber-necked wide-mouth, thick glass jars made for freezing and canning. Do not fill to the brim—leave a 1.5-inch space from the top to allow for expansion while freezing. Expansion from the freezing of the contents could cause the jars to break, so it's important not to fill to the top.
- Label your containers with the date and what it is!
- After taking frozen dishes out of the freezer, let them thaw in the refrigerator 24 hours before using.
- Do not thaw perishable foods at room temperature. If foods are left at room temperature too long, bacteria may grow that can cause food-borne illnesses.
- Do not thaw cooked foods by running hot water over them. You can, however, fill a large pan or your kitchen sink with tap water and place the frozen food in it to help speed up the defrosting time. Make sure the container is not breakable and is well sealed and moisture-proof.
- Reheat previously cooked food to an internal temperature of 165°. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.
- You can refreeze unused portions of cooked food that has been frozen and thawed.
- Do not keep frozen food stored longer than two or three months.
- In case you forget to defrost overnight, the best way to cook frozen dishes right from the freezer is to place them in a cold oven covered with foil and turn the oven to 325°. Remember to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. The dish needs to be at 165° for the insides to be hot.
- Bake the thawed food at the original temperature called for in the recipe. Most likely you will have to bake longer. Just make sure to keep the food thermometer at hand. You do not want to overbake.
- Almost all dishes freeze up nicely with the exception of eggs and salads!
I hope some of my suggestions help you with your freezeable meals!
"Sending big bowls of love (thawed),"