Tips For Freezing Foods Successfully

While you can freeze just about any food, not all foods are well-suited to life in your refrigerator's colder cousin. Freezing expands and contracts the moisture contained inside the cell walls of frozen foods, the same way water expands then contracts when you freeze it as an ice cube. For this reason, many foods with weak cell structures will become limp, soggy or mushy after being frozen and thawed. Here are a few tips for ensuring the best results with various foods and dishes:

  • Cabbage, lettuce and most greens – Do not freeze. These will become limp and watery. For greens such as spinach, however, where the final application may be in a soup, stew, casserole, egg dish, etc., and the greens will be cooked until limp anyway - freeze away. Similarly, though herbs retain their flavor when frozen, they should only be considered when texture isn't a concern in their final use.
  • Berries – Freeze depending on your intended use. Berries will get soft when thawed, but if you intend to use them in jams, sauces, smoothies or another squishy recipe, they will be fine. When using thawed berries as a substitute for fresh ones, in general you should include the liquid that results from the thaw, unless your recipe says otherwise.
  • Bananas – Freeze bananas in their skins for use later in baked goods like muffins and quickbreads, because they will be completely mushy when thawed.
  • Melons, stonefruits, pineapple – Slices or chunks will get mushy but will be fine for use in smoothies, pies, etc.
  • Milk-based sauces, custards, sour cream – These tend to separate or even curdle. If you are freezing a dish that is finished with milk, cream or sour cream, freeze it before adding those foods and finish the dish with them after it is thawed, if possible. An example is Swedish Meatballs into which you usually stir a bit of sour cream just before serving.
  • Onions, celery, peppers – These are watery and tend to lose their crispness when thawed. If they are going to be cooked after freezing, they may work satisfactorily. Pre-chopping and freezing them in portioned bags can be a big timesaver.
  • Cheeses – Blocks of cheese to be used for shredding or grating (such as Cheddar, mozzarella or Parmesan) freeze well.
  • Fresh meat and poultry – These freeze well and may in fact become more tender after being frozen.
  • Rice – Rice freezes very well if just barely undercooked to allow for a slight softening of the grain upon thawing. Cool well before freezing for best results.
  • Baked goods – Many baked goods freeze very well and unlike most foods, can safely be thawed at room temperature. Unfrosted cakes and cookies usually freeze better than frosted ones.
  • Pasta dishes – Pasta dishes and other casserole-style dishes freeze well but will soften and absorb sauce as a result. To counter the effect, slightly undercook pastas and add extra sauce.
  • Eggs – While you can freeze both (raw eggs must be removed from their shells), these are fussy and it is generally not recommended to freeze eggs.
  • Butter – Freezes very well.

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