Freezing is an excellent way to preserve food to use at a later date. When frozen and stored correctly, food retains its nutritional value, colour and texture.
General tips for freezing food
It is safe to freeze most raw or cooked food so long as you do the following:
- Make sure your freezer is running at -18°C or lower.
- Freeze food before the use-by date to keep it at its best.
- Make sure cooked food is cold before putting it in the freezer.
- Don’t re-freeze food that was previously frozen – unless you’ve cooked it thoroughly to destroy bacteria that may have multiplied during thawing.
- Make sure food is stored in sealed containers or properly wrapped to avoid freezer burn, which can draw moisture out from a frozen item.
- Portion food before you freeze it. That way you can avoid having to defrost all of it when you only need a little.
- Label food before putting it in the freezer, so you know what it is and how long it’s been there.
- Follow any freezing or thawing instructions on the food packaging.
- Defrost food in the fridge so it doesn’t get too warm, and ensure it’s thoroughly defrosted before cooking.
- Use food within a day or two after being defrosted.
Read our tips for buying a freezer.
How long to store frozen food
Generally once frozen, food can be kept in the freezer indefinitely. However, its taste and texture may deteriorate over time. Check the instructions on the food’s packaging or the freezer’s handbook to see how long food can be stored frozen. In general, most frozen food is best eaten within 3 to 6 months.
Freezing meat and fish
Freeze meat and fish for up to 6 months. In most cases, meat and fish should be thoroughly defrosted before cooking. It’s best to do this in a fridge to avoid it becoming too warm. Place it on a lipped plate or bowl to catch the liquid that’s released as it thaws. This will stop bacteria in the juice contaminating other items.
Freezing fresh vegetables is a great way to retain their flavour and nutrients. However, avoid freezing vegetables with a high water content, such as lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, as they’ll turn to a soggy mush when defrosted. Most vegetables including peas, runner beans, asparagus and broccoli benefit from being first blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds as it stops them from turning brown when frozen. Once cold, freeze them scattered on a tray lined with baking parchment and then transfer to a freezer bag.
Freezing is a good way to store a glut of summer fruit. When freezing delicate fruit such as strawberries or raspberries, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet covering in baking parchment. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag or plastic lidded container. With fruits that tend to go brown, such as apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots, wash them first in bowl of water with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice before drying and freezing.
You can freeze all types of milk for up to a 1 month. As milk expands when it freezes, you may need to remove a little from a very full container. To use, defrost it in the fridge and shake the container well before using. Butter and margarine can be frozen for 3 months. Cheese gets crumbly in texture when defrosted. Try grating or slicing it before freezing. Grated cheddar cheese can be kept for up to 4 months and used directly from the freezer.
Avoid freezing plain yogurt, low-fat cream cheese, cottage cheese and single cream as they’re likely to separate when thawed.
Whole eggs can be frozen though not in the shell. Crack them into a bowl and whisk a little to blend then store in a freezer bag or container for up to 3 months. Whites and yolks can also be frozen separately. Whites can be popped straight into freezer bags, but whisk a pinch of salt or sugar into the beaten egg yolks to stop them from thickening too much upon freezing.
Freezing bread, cake and pastry
Most types of bread except crusty baguettes can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Undecorated plain cakes such as sponge, fruit, scones, cupcakes are good candidates for the freezer as is raw pastry, all of which can typically be kept for up to 6 months.
Freezing herbs and spices
Most spices and herbs freeze well. Many spices can be kept for up to 6 months but herbs tend to lose their flavour faster, so aim use within 2 months. A good way to freeze herbs is to wash, dry and chop herbs, then store in freezer bags or in an ice-cube with a little added water.
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