Freezer Cooking FAQ’s

posted by Andrea | 03/7/2012

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post about all kinds of different freezable foods – and in the past year, that post has become my most popular post, getting at least one comment, email, tweet, and/or facebook message every day. It’s also been pinned and repinned on Pinterst several thousand times.

I still laugh because I honestly wrote that post in about 20 minutes on a day when I couldn’t decide what to write about. I simply opened my freezer and started making a list — apparently, freezable foods is a hot topic! 

So if you are interested in freezer cooking — first read that post {and make sure you scroll through the comments too} and then come back here for some answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Can I Freeze _________?

If I had a nickel for every time someone has emailed me or left a comment asking if they can freeze a certain type of food… I’d be rich!

And even though I’ve frozen lots and lots of different foods, I’m not always able to answer this question with 100% certainty — however if I ever wonder how a specific food might freeze, I just try it and find out! My advice to you is simply to test it with a small batch so you won’t waste a lot of food if it doesn’t turn out.

In my opinion, you can almost freeze anything… so just give it a try! {the only thing I haven’t had great luck with is cheesy potato soup because the potatoes got really mushy}

How Should I Package _____ For the Freezer?

This is another very popular question I’ve gotten over the past year. Personally, I use all kinds of containers and tools to freeze food — just based on what I have on hand.

I like to use square and rectangle containers as much as possible because they stack better and take up less space than round and oval containers.

I also use lots of freezer bags to store broth, stock, sauces, chopped veggies, chopped fruits, sliced and shredded cheeses, ground and shredded meats, etc. because the bags stack nicely and hardly take up any space. Plus, I can use different size bags to pre-portion out the amount I need for various recipes {2 c. of broth or 1 lb. ground beef}

I use mostly plastic containers — just because I have more of them, but glass works fine too.

I put bread and buns from the store right into the freezer and don’t even take the time to double bag them anymore. So far, we haven’t noticed any difference.

Whenever I make a full meal, I’ll put it in the appropriate dish and either put a resealable lid on top or cover it with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.

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Should I Cook and/or Bake _____ Before I Freeze It?

Well, this depends….

If I’m making any sort of soup, stew, casserole, pasta dish, enchiladas, or other “full meal” I cook the ingredients and fully assemble the meal — however, there’s no need to actually bake the finished product in the oven until you’re ready to eat it. For example, if I was making lasagna to put in the freezer, I would boil the noodles, cook the meat/sauce and fully assemble the meal — but then I would wait until after I defrosted it to bake it in the oven.

Baked goods, on the other hand, are usually fully baked before I freeze them. Baked cakes, cupcakes, cookies, bars, brownies, etc. all freeze very well — and I almost always frost my cakes and cupcakes before I freeze them! Pies are the only thing I do NOT bake before I freeze… because in my opinion, they taste much better if you put them right from the freezer to the oven and the crust is able to stay flaky and delicious.

How Do I Defrost _________?

This question surprised me because I’ve never really given much thought to the defrosting process. But since this was the #2 most-asked question I received, it deserves a response!

Basically, whenever I defrost any breads, muffins, baked goods, baking supplies, candies, cookies, chips, or other pantry items, I just pull it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter or in our cabinets until it defrosts… and then we eat it.

However, it’s best to defrost dairy, meat, and other refrigerated items in the fridge to reduce the risk of them going bad. Of course, this takes a little more planning ahead — so I usually try to take my food out of the freezer at least 1 day in advance {sometimes 2 for really large cuts of meat or large containers of soup}.

I’ve definitely forgotten to pull items out of the freezer on time, and then I just resort to defrosting it on the counter or in a warm water bath in the sink.

How long will ______ last after it’s defrosted?

This depends on the type of food.

For example, if you freeze and defrost chicken or milk, it might only last a week until it needs to be cooked or consumed. However, chips, crackers, or nuts should taste fresh for several weeks after they are defrosted.

Basically, I would use common sense and realize that if a food has a pretty long shelf life {crackers and chips} before you freeze it, it should stay fresh for a long time after you defrost it. And if it has a shorter shelf life {milk and chicken} then it probably won’t last as long after you defrost it.

Make sense?

photo credit

What type of freezer should I have?

First of all, please don’t go out and purchase a new freezer just to start freezer cooking. If you package your items properly, you can fit A LOT of food in the freezer attached to your refrigerator.

However, if you are already in the market for a freezer, I would most definitely recommend a manual-defrost freezer {NOT a frost-free freezer}. Your food will stay fresher longer and you won’t have to deal with as much freezer burn.

Also, my personal preference is an upright freezer because they are easier to organize and see what you have. But you can actually fit more food per cubic foot in a chest freezer — plus, chest freezers are often a bit cheaper.

Do you have any other advice?

Well yes — here are a few final thoughts/tips:

  • Label and date EVERYTHING you put in the freezer
  • Just try it! In my experience, you can freeze almost anything, so just be adventuresome and give it a try.
  • Think about portions — if you only use 1c. of ground beef or ground chicken at a time, then freeze it in 1c. portions. If most of your recipes call for 2c. of broth, then freeze it in 2c. portions. Your food will defrost quicker this way and you won’t have to deal with re-freezing the leftovers. I actually freeze a lot of things in muffin tins or ice cube trays and then just use what I need in different recipes.
  • Freezer cooking doesn’t have to be expensive — in fact, it’s actually a great way to save loads of money on groceries! Just start with the freezer you already have, use containers you already have, and stock up on food when it’s on sale.
  • Start small. If you don’t want to invest a ton of time or money into freeze cooking, just try freezing one or two meals, one batch of cookies, or one package of rolls. See if you like it and then go from there.

I’ve saved so much time and money by utilizing my freezer and making meals in advance — I honestly can’t imagine NOT having a fully stocked freezer to rely on when I need a quick dinner or we’re asked to bring a treat to work/church/friend/family parties.

I’ve tried to cover the main questions I’ve been asked over the last year — but feel free to leave additional questions in the comments below. I’ll answer as many as I can, and other readers might be able to answer the rest!

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61 comments

  1. Melissa

    10/30/2012

    Thanks so much for your helpful tips! I have been freezing food a long time now as well. Still, you taught me a few things I didn’t know. I love the disposable foil pans you can get at the dollar store for freezing casserole’s of course I reuse the pans, but they are usually 3 for a dollar and cheap! Also, you can freeze almost any kind of cookie dough for at least 6 months (in my experience, it may be longer but it usually doesn’t last that long in our house!) When I make cookies I always double the recipe and put at least half the dough in the freezer for another time. You can cook the dough while frozen and it doesn’t change the taste or texture of the cookies.

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  2. Barb

    11/05/2012

    Can you freeze feta cheese and ricotta cheese?

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    Laura Reply:

    I am currently eating some feta that I’d frozen, and it’s delicious! I just stuck the package container in there, then put it in the fridge to defrost.

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  3. Barbara

    11/12/2012

    You can freeze Coffee… i always freeze coffee… it keeps it nice and fresh, and you can use it in your coffe pot right out of the freezer!!!!

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  4. Lori

    11/14/2012

    Rice is a wonderful time saver to freeze. Whenever I get a chance, I throw three cups of rice on to cook. I then let it cool and place in gallon zip bags. Whenever, I need a quick meal, I can grab a can of cream soup, a bit of cooked meat and pour it over the rice! I just scoop out the amount that I need. This has saved me tremendous amount of time as my rice usually takes 45 min to cook.

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  5. Patty

    11/17/2012

    This is a great site, Thank you Vicki Powers for spreading the word. I was really happy to see all the food you froze. While I was living in Colorado, what we did not dry, we froze. Nothing went to waste. I wanted to offer a few ideas to freezing fruit. I froze my fruit whole. The only time to cut into them was if you only used them that way. Most vegetables work the same way. Anexample would be Green Peppers. I always freeze a bag of chopped peppers so I could use them as needed. I also freeze the whole pepper after I cut the top off then cleaned out and put the top back on for Stuffed Peppers or make the Stuffed Peppers and freeze them. Just like many veggies, I freeze fruit cut up and whole. Example for whole fruits to freeze are Bing Cherries. I clean them off then stuff bags full to freeze. They make such a great little cold treat, pits and all. Eat them frozen the way you eat them fresh. I did the same thing with most every summer fruit. You can take the skin off fruits like peaches and apricots if you prefer. Remember to never freeze whole fruits or veggies with skin on damp, Mositure causes Freezer Burn.

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  6. Sharon

    11/28/2012

    For labels, I use freezer tape; it is inexpensive and sticks to the container, even in the freezer. Is easy to read and you can peel it off easily if you want to reuse the container. You could use different colored magic markers to label different types of food; Cookie dough, main dishes, veggies, etc. Thanks for the ideas; a lot of those foods I hadn’t thought of freezing and since I have a vacuum sealer, I can branch out!

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  7. Joan

    12/25/2012

    It’s just the two of us, now. We don’t go thru food as quickly as when there were six of us. I portion my bulk (Costco) into vacuum bags, date, and freeze. Then I list each portion on a big sticky on the side of my fridge and cross off as I use. In the freezer, I group the portions into gallon freezer bags labeled beef, chix, pork, etc. with a sharpy, so stuff doesn’t flop around in the bottom of the freezer.

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  8. Nancy

    12/28/2012

    You’re inspiring me to clean out my little freezer while I make space to add another. I have a comment about your earlier note saying you freeze flour. It is actually a good idea to freeze flour, rice, oatmeal, and other grain products for 2 or 3 days at the outset: the freezing kills the weevil eggs that otherwise may hatch and flourish in your warm cupboards. It would be a good idea to keep an open space in your freezer to rotate those grains in and out before you store them in the kitchen.

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  9. Shirley Steiniger

    01/17/2013

    This is a wonderful site full of all kinds of information. I have just started freezer cooking for my family. Can you freeze uncooked eggs? My thought was to take the egg out of the shell and freeze them in ice cube trays and then transfer to freezer bags? Thaw as needed for cooking. I don’t want to have to scramble until thawed unless I need them scrambled. I may want to fry the egg? Can you freeze this item?

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    Donna Reply:

    Shirley, I have a friend who gives me fresh eggs from her chickens and I’ve frozen yolks and whites separately with excellent results. I usually just put them in a small ziplock, but will try your suggestion of ice cube trays as well for easier portions.

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  10. Karen

    01/20/2013

    I don’t know if you have frozen eggs, but we go to Canada every year, and instead of taking eggs in the carton, we scramble a dozen eggs, put them in a zip lock bag, freeze, then use them for cooking in recipes that call for eggs, and also use them for scrambled eggs, and they are great. I don’t know how long you can keep them, but they are frozen for about a month when we use them and they are fine.

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  11. ellen

    01/20/2013

    we freeze egg whites that are leftover from making ice cream, then add to scrambled eggs. they stay good for many months. sometimes i’ll break a yolk when separating them so that goes in with the whites too and it’s fine. i haven’t yet tried to use frozen whites for angel food cake but they work fine for scrambled eggs. i’m sure whole eggs would freeze fine by themselves but you’d need pretty big ice cube trays since an egg is 1/4 cup, isn’t it?

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  12. PAT CINCIRIPINI

    02/05/2013

    Can I freeze sour kraut (cooked)?

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  13. maddy

    02/09/2013

    I’ve had to discard food due to freezer burn. Any suggestions?

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  14. Jody

    02/13/2013

    can you freeze cooked meats?

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    Tiffany Reply:

    Great tips and info! I freeze tons of stuff and also can’t imagine not having things in my freezer to rely on. I wanted to answer Jody’s quesiton about freezing cooked meat – yes, yes, and yes! This is probalby what I freeze the most of. I freeze cooked chicken, cooked ground beef, cooked pulled pork, the list goes on. I have shared my chicken and ground beef process with so many people and they love it. For chicken, I stock up on the boneless, skinless chicken breast when it goes on sale. I buy about 10 lbs at a time and the use 3 crockpots or so to cook it all at once. Just throw the chicken in the crockpot, cover with water, and let it cook on low for about 8 hours. Then shred up (it pulls apart so easily with a fork after cooking slowly all day) and freeze in whatever size you want. I usually do about 2 cups per freezer bag and just pull out what I need for a recipe.

    You can do the same thing with ground beef. Sometimes I just brown more than I need for a recipe and then freeze that portion, however, if I’m freezing it in bulk, I do the same thing as with the chicken breasts – I use my crockpot! This works best if you have a rack for your crock pot because then the beef cooks on the rack and doesn’t sit in all the grease. However, if you buy pretty lean beef, or if you aren’t concerned about that, any crockpot will do. Just add a 1/2 inch or so of water on the bottom to keep the meat from drying out and cook on low – normally done in about 6 hours or can do about 4 on high. Just take the ground beef out of the crockpot when done (try to keep it in one piece so it isn’t mixed in with the grease that has cooked out), chop it up and freeze in freezer bags. Sometimes we season it too with taco seasoning or something but usually just leave it plain to put into recipes. This has literally saved me so much time over the years!

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  15. Sandi Alonzo

    08/25/2013

    Can I freeze buttermilk?

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  16. Leah

    10/17/2013

    Thanks for this comprehensive, reader-friendly info!

    I reuse freezer bags. Why? Because I hate adding to the Texas-sized rafts of plastic waste floating in the oceans. (check it out — 5gyres.org.)

    Washing bags is a pain. I don’t even know if it takes more fuel to wash freezer bags than to buy new ones. But plastic waste is something that anybody who freezes food needs to be aware of.

    And recycling metal is super important. Just think of those hideous ore mines.

    There’s nothing “re” about this precious resource, unless we “re”cycle it. Bits of foil, aluminum trays, keys, cans — everything!

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  17. Elaine Bell

    02/21/2014

    Can I freeze boiled eggs? Sam’s sells BIG bags of boiled eggs and they would ruin before I get to the bottom?

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  18. Heather Morgan

    04/17/2014

    I noticed the the first comment here by Melissa mentions the disposable dollar-store casserole pans for freezing casseroles. Is that what you do also? I just assume it’s easiest to freeze and cook your casseroles in the same dish–and was wondering if you just use the disposable pans or something else. Also, I know you say you defrost a lot of stuff, but do you ever just cook your casseroles from frozen? I mean plenty of store-bought type casseroles, lasagnas, etc. come already frozen so I assume it’d be okay. Have you figured out the average time to add onto a regular recipe if you’re cooking it frozen instead?

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