Freezing Food's Rules

Follow basic storage rules, organize a little and the freezer can be your best friend

* The Humble Freezer is one of the world’s great inventions. A place to keep the marked-down meat you bought but don’t need just yet, and to store pre-made meals so you can take a night off from the kitchen now and then.

A freezer operates most efficiently when full (though not overloaded). Ideally, it should have a temperature of -18 C. If your freezer is a compartment within the fridge, however, the temperature will be higher and food won’t keep as long. Check the inside of your freezer for storage recommendations, since freezing times can also vary between models.

Label food with the contents and date, and keep a list of what’s in the freezer so you know what needs to be eaten up at a glance.

Storage Tips

1. When shopping, leave the frozen-food aisle until last, then transport the food to your freezer at home as soon as possible. Leave food in its original packaging unless you are freezing smaller portions.

2. The advantage of freezing in small amounts is that food freezes quickly, so the ice crystals that form in it will be smaller (and the food will maintain a better texture when thawed). Also, small containers don’t leave much space around the food so there will be less crystallization. Plus, there’s no need to defrost more food than necessary.

3. Wrap individual portions of fresh food, such as meat, tightly in plastic wrap and make sure there are no air pockets. Place in a freezer bag and label.

4. When freezing casseroles, stews or other such meals, try to make sure the meat is covered in the sauce to prevent it drying out.

5. Never refreeze partially or completely defrosted food, as dangerous levels of bacteria may develop.

Muffins, rolls and bread
Pre-made vegetable and meat soups
Minced meat
Casseroles and stews
Butter and margarine
Cakes (other than fruit cake)
Firm cheeses, such as cheddar
Hard cheeses, such as parmesan

By Chrissy Freer