5 Mistakes to Avoid When Freezing Your Food

updated May 8, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

The freezer is the most misused appliance in the kitchen. Best efforts to arrange open bags of frozen veggies, icy cutlets, brown bananas, and Popsicles fail because the icy chill keeping food cold also keeps our organizational eyes away. Freezers turn into a holding tank of unmarked bags, freezer-burned mystery meat, and leftovers we can’t bear to toss (yet). But overcome five major mistakes of freezing groceries and you’ll be amazed at how useful the freezer can actually be.

1. You freeze items in the original packaging or containers that aren’t airtight.

Remember the following: Air is the enemy of frozen foods. Exposure to air leads to freezer burn that causes foods to deteriorate over time. While it feels simple enough to slide those shrink-wrapped styrofoam trays of chicken breast or ground beef straight into the freezer, that packaging isn’t airtight. Instead, transfer foods to a bag or container designed for freezer storage — this will better preserve the quality over the long haul.

Follow this tip: To best preserve the quality of freezer-bound food and avoid freezer burn, freeze groceries in freezer-specific bags or containers, and always remove as much air as possible (a vacuum sealer is a great tool for this!) from whatever container you use before sealing the bag and freezing.

Read more: The Best Vacuum Sealer for the Kitchen, According to the Best Experts

2. You don’t consider how you’ll use the frozen foods later.

Before freezing groceries, prep the food first to make thawing and cooking later even easier. Consider if you’ll cook an entire pack of bacon at once, or freeze in smaller portions to provide greater flexibility. Prepare vegetables, like onions, as you intend to use them — diced or sliced — to get a jump-start on dinner. Freeze flavor boosters, like tomato paste, caramelized onions, and wine, in tablespoon-sized portions in an ice cube tray.

Follow this tip: Freeze groceries in their most useful form.

3. You let produce go bad before you freeze.

The time to freeze extra onions or the last handful of greens in the clamshell is now, and not when the allium sprouts or the spinach is soggy. The freezer cannot revive foods already past their prime, but they can suspend that downward spiral, giving you a second chance to use what you’ve got!

Follow this tip: Make a plan for produce before it is too late.

4. You don’t label and date everything.

There’s nothing like the conviction of a cook convinced that the contents of the freezer can go unmarked with no ill effect. Food so often goes unused because it is too time-consuming to recall the contents of each bag (let alone how long it’s been in the deep freeze!), and if it is thawed there’s always the risk of pouring chili, and not Bolognese, over noodles.

Follow this tip: Keep a roll of freezer tape and a permanent marker in the drawer near your freezer zip-top bags or vacuum sealer. And when labeling bags or containers, more is more, here. Label the bags with helpful information like the contents, date, and amount. And for leftovers, it’s a good idea to add the best oven temperature and cook time for reheating.

Read more: The $3 School Supply Item That Keeps My Kitchen Organized

5. You don’t think ahead to consider thawing.

The last thing to consider before freezing groceries is to consider how they will thaw. Remember, foods frozen in thin layers will thaw more rapidly than dense blocks. Instead of carelessly tossing a zip-top bag of rice, soup, or sauce onto the freezer shelf, lay it flat so it fills the entire bag in a thinner, even layer. (Set it the bag on a baking sheet to catch any drips or leaks.) This also helps with freezer storage space because the thin bags are easier to line up and organize. If you often make extra cookie dough, scoop them onto a baking sheet to freeze individually. It’s easier than scooping frozen dough from a container. Spread bulk berries onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze individually so you can remove just what you need.

Follow this tip: For faster thawing, and to maximize your freezer’s storage potential, freeze foods in thin layers (like with rice, beans, soup, and sauces) or individually (like with balls of cookie dough or fresh fruits and vegetables).