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Nov 19, 2011 02:03 PM

Freezing in Cast Iron

Is this OK to do? I cooked meatballs in a sauce in preparation for my daughter's birthday dinner next weekend. It's in an enameled cast iron (not Le Crueset, but similar). So I cooled them overnight in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap today and the put in the freezer. I plan on taking it out Friday night to thaw and then reheat in the oven on Saturday.

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  1. It shouldn't be a problem if it is enamel cast iron of decent quality. One thing to keep in mind is extreme temperature changes. If you thaw it, then place it in the oven, it should be fine. It is the shock of hot and cold that could create tiny cracks in the enamel.

    1. I don't see any big problem. As bestcookware has said, you want to avoid sudden temperature change. Oven is fine. You just don't want to put a refrigerated cold pan (~4oC) and on top of a red hot heated electric coil.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Chem,. I wouldn't risk my expensive french enameled cast iron by doing this. I have never read that LC or Staub or even the other brands made in China were okay for the freezer. In fact, the cheaper ones are already having reported problems of enamel peeling and cracking, even under normal users. I know you can refrigerate in them, yes, but freezing makes the enamel more prone to chipping. because it contracts at a different rate than the underlying metal. And any kind of thermal shock, such as stove top or right into a hot oven, can possibly have the same effect. Why risk it? Isn't this why the Lord made Tupperware?

        1. re: RGC1982

          RGC1982. It is refrigerator, so it is not that cold. Yes, a freezer to burner transition is very rough, but I think the original poster is only interested for refrigerator to oven.

          Like you, I would prefer to bring the refrigerated enameled at to almost room temperatore before putting it in oven. What do you say?

          Pretty sure tupperware was invented by teletubbies?

          *Edited* Re-read original poster's.... yes, nmurawsk did say freezer after refrigerator. Hmmm.... I don't know. I think it still can be done, but with much more care..... I better ask teletubbies....

      2. Well I will report back after next weekend and let y'all know what happens. Hoping that the gradual hot to cold to frozen and back again will be OK.

        3 Replies
        1. re: nmurawsk

          Hi, nmurawsk:

          I think your gradual cold-to-hot will be fine. In fact, think the only way you'd get in trouble is to go from very hot to a very cold, large thermal mass--like out of a high oven or off a very hot hob and then plunged into an icebath. I have taken full LC ovens from 350 and put them into tepid water and freezers with no problems.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            Thermal shock can happen in the reverse process too -- cold to hot also. That is why pizza stones crack when placed in a hot oven.

            If the OP manages the temperature transition gradually, it will probably be fine, but my point was that these are usually pretty expensive pots. If I was doing this with one of my Staub or LC pieces, we are talking possibly $250 to $300 pots -- each one. Why risk it? Does the OP not have another storage vessel that can do the job, or are we really just trying to avoid washing another item? Maybe I am a little fanatical about how I take care of my cookware, but I have had some pieces without damage for nearly thirty years of heavy use, so I am doing something right here. I remember emptying my Mom's kitchen a few years ago after she passed away, and there was only one tiny piece of LC that was not badly damaged due to improper use, care and storage, and we had purchased our LC pieces together at about the same time. How you treat your cookware matters.

            Storage containers are made for this specific purpose, hence my "tupperware" comment (Teletubbies or not, Chem, I really meant generic storage containers when I said "Tupperware"). Some of these new storage systems are glass or hard plastic, and they are really good to consider as an alternative.

            1. re: RGC1982

              Hi, RGC1982:

              Yes, of course, thermal shock can happen the other way 'round, too. If one took an empty, cryogenically-chilled ECI pan, and plunged it into a hot brine bath, likely it and/or its enamel would shatter.

              But most folks, and I bet the OP, are dealing mostly with non-convection ovens and very wimpy home freezers where it is mostly the *air* temperature that the pan must soldier through. If you've ever (maybe you haven't, but I have) attempted to fast-chill a CI pot of something buy putting it in a home freezer, or putting it outside in 10F weather, it still takes a pretty long time to cool, even unlidded. The combined thermal mass of the contents and the thick iron moderate the shock, and effectively heat the air at the pan-air margin.

              Yes, pizza stones can crack with upward shock. But I think there are factors at work that are different than with CI--brittleness, absorbed moisture, differential thicknesses, more heat from the oven grates/floor, sudden breakage that may really be the visible crescendo of progressive cracking, etc.

              Your advice against risking breaking a $300 pan when you can store and reheat in a $20 ceramic is wise. I've just never, ever, heard of anyone breaking a LC or Staub by going freezer to oven.

              And the OP never even proposed doing this, the way I read the post. By the time s/he lets the pan thaw for a day, the pan itself will probably be near room temperature.


        2. I would never freeze anything in a cooking vessel. Decant into a freezer bag and seal it up. It will taste better in the log run. Pots etc are not designed for freezing food in them, or (listening DH?) storing food in them.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            <<Pots etc are not designed for freezing food in them, or (listening DH?) storing food in them.>>

            I'm not DH, but I have stored leftover chilis, braises, and sauces in the LC oven they were made in for 30 years now to no ill effect.

            1. re: Jay F

              And incidentally, I meant that I store things in the fridge, not the freezer.

            2. re: Candy

              I'm with you on this one about the food quality issue too. Yes, you can use vessels that are not airtight and will not get ill from it, but there is no question that air tight freezing is better for the food. It won't absorb odors from the freezer, get dried out or suffer freezer burn. If you don't notice the difference, okay then. If you can place your vessel in the freezer and make sure that the lid is airtight, then quality will not be an issue, but we are still talking about mistreating your pot.

            3. It's obviously too late to tell you not to do this. Good luck.