From keeping a bag of frozen vegetables to make-ahead meals and leftovers, the freezer is such a great way to lengthen the shelf life of food. Unfortunately, food can’t live in the freezer forever.
The longer the food stays in the freezer, the lower its quality as the colour, flavour and texture might be compromised. While almost all kinds of food can be frozen, the preparation method is what sets them apart:
1. Portions: Whatever you freeze, it’s best to portion them into specific serving sizes first. In future, you’ll only need to take out and thaw what you need! As for liquids like milk or vegetable stock, leave some space in the container or bottle to allow for expansion when frozen.
2. Containers: The space in the freezer might be quite constricting, but with plastic containers with lids, you can put your Tetris skills to good use by figuring out the best way to make full use of the space available. Food like soup or stock freezes well in containers. As for other foods like vegetables or homemade dumplings, it’s best to freeze them separately on a tray before transferring them in a zip lock bag once it’s frozen.
3. Vacuum-pack: Ever heard of freezer burn? It happens when food is exposed to air in the freezer, which causes dehydration and oxidation. So, make sure to remove air from storage bags! You can do so by sticking a straw and sucking all the air out. For containers, seal the opening with cling wrap before putting the lid on or wrap the surface of food with aluminium foil to prevent ice crystals from forming. If you’re freezing any baked goods, make sure to wrap them tightly with plastic wrap or foil too!
4. Labels: The last thing you want is to dig through your freezer trying to find for an item that you can no longer recognise after being frozen. This is why we can’t stress the importance of labels enough! Always remember to label the name and the date. Having a food inventory of the items in your freezer is also a useful practice.
After all the time and effort put into ensuring the best practices for freezing food, learning how to thaw food safely is just as important! It may require some time so if you plan to thaw any food, planning ahead is an excellent call to make. Here are the different methods to properly thaw frozen food:
1. Refrigerator: This may be the slowest method, but it is undoubtedly the safest way to thaw frozen food since it keeps food out of the temperature danger zone. The danger zone refers to the rapid growth of bacteria in the range of 4.4 degrees and 60 degrees Celsius. Frozen food left unrefrigerated within the temperature range as mentioned earlier is riskier in terms of bacteria.
2. Microwave: Set your microwave to the defrost mode, or at half of its original power, to ensure that the outer edges of the food won’t get cooked while the remainder is still frozen. For frozen food that has previously been cut into pieces, separate them first! After thawing, the food has to be cooked immediately.
3. Water: This is probably the most common thawing method in most Singaporean households. With the frozen food in a leak-proof bag, immerse it completely in cold water. Check the temperature every thirty minutes or so to make sure that the water remains cold. If it’s warm, then bacteria might begin to multiply due to the temperature danger zone. Similar to thawing with a microwave, make sure to cook it immediately!
Maintaining good practices and keeping to storage guidelines are often overlooked, even though they are incredibly essential in keeping up to hygienic standards. Now that you know the correct ways to freeze and thaw food, we hope you can start cooking with a peace of mind. Once you’re done, pack them in take out lunch boxes and share the goodness around with your friends and family!