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Don’t Get Hot Under the Collar: A Guide to Freezing Foods

December 13, 2011 Le Cordon Bleu Chicago 0 Comments

Don’t Get Hot Under the Collar:  A Guide to Freezing Foods

Thanks to the local/organic food movements and busy lifestyles, food preservation is becoming more and more popular. One popular technique is freezing. Whether it’s freezing seasonal vegetables to last into the winter or freezing home-cooked meals for easy weeknight preparation, freezing is an easy alternative to fast and heavily processed foods. Many people in the Northern hemisphere use freezing as a way to preserve their summer foods well into the winter. And the best part is that you do not have to attend a Le Cordon Bleu program to learn how to do it.

Benefits of Freezing Foods

Freezing foods aids in the retention of nutrients so that raw foods that emerge from the freezer several months later have a much higher nutrient value than their cooked and canned counterparts. It is one of the best ways for both improving your nutrition and your techniques for cooking in Chicago.

Freezing also slows the bacterial and enzymatic reactions that lead to food ripening and decomposition. Because of this, foods may be kept in the freezer for weeks or months longer than otherwise. Food should not stay in the freezer indefinitely, however. Food quality can be severely impacted if kept in the freezer too long.

All of this, and more, contributes to why we think freezing is one of your best options for food preservation. We’ve put together this quick guide on freezing so that you can get the most out of your food freezing efforts.

Preparing Foods for Freezing

Raw foods are best for freezing because they contain more water than foods that have already been cooked. This helps preserve the interior cells of the food and promote quality.

Packaging should be airtight. Any oxygen can lead to freezer burn, which can make your frozen items not only unappealing visually, but also inedible. Airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags are the best. If meats are to be frozen in their original packaging, an additional over layer of plastic or foil wrap is recommended.

Freshness and Quality

The fresher the food when frozen, the better it will taste when defrosted. Try to freeze foods as close to their peak of quality as possible. Even slightly overripe fruits and vegetables will not tolerate freezing well. You will definitely notice the difference.

Quick freezing foods will also contribute greatly to food quality when defrosted. If your freezer has a quick freeze section, be sure to use it, especially for meats and soft skinned fruits and vegetables like strawberries and tomatoes. If not, be sure that your freezer is on its coldest setting and lay packages out in singles layers. Stacking items slows freezing.

Food Safety

Be sure that you freezer reaches 0 degrees F to ensure optimum food safety and quality. Freezing foods will slow down harmful bacterial growth so much that foods are safe for consumption almost indefinitely. Food quality, however, should prevent you from freezing anything for longer than 8 to 12 months.

The only real food safety issue for frozen foods comes when defrosting. Always defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator, where the cool temperatures continue to suppress the growth of dangerous bacteria. Never defrost in the sink, on the countertop, or outside. There is no safe amount of time to leave foods out. At temperatures of 40 degrees F and above bacteria begins to grow almost immediately.

Do Not Freeze These Foods!

Nearly anything can be frozen: vegetables, fruits, meats, breads. There are a few foods, however, that you should not freeze:

  • Canned or jarred food – canned and jarred foods will explode in the freezer as the water inside expands during freezing. You may, however, remove items from cans or jars and freeze them.
  • Salad greens and crisp raw veggies for salads and sandwiches – such as celery, onions, and sweet peppers — will lose their crispness and become limp after freezing
  • Eggs in the shell —They will expand and crack the shell. Hard cooked egg whites will become tough and rubbery
  • Creamed cottage cheese —It will change texture, becoming grainy. Freeze only un-creamed or dry-curd cottage cheese
  • Sour cream —It will separate when frozen and thawed
  • Heavy or whipping cream —Freezing will keep it from whipping to high consistency
  • Potatoes —They become mushy if frozen raw, and watery and tough if boiled and then frozen

Following these tips will help you achieve the best results from freezing your food. Just imagine how delicious those fresh fruits and vegetables will taste when you’re cooking in Chicago in December and January.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Chicago for more information.

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures. Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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