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Feb 4, 2014 03:47 PM

Freezer phobia - what freezes well and doesn't compromise quality?

I have a freezer phobia. Somehow (not from experience, mind you), I believe if I freeze 'x', it won't be as good!

I keep coming across recipes (for peanut butter cookies, buttermilk biscuits, and pop-tarts, to name a few) that claim you can freeze them and then bake....

I'd LOVE to have a freezer, stock-piled with ready-to-bake goodness... but never take the time to experiment, for fear of ruining what could have been perfectly wonderful ingredients.

So, 'hounds, I ask you - what would you point me towards, to help rid me of my phobia? And, anything to steer clear of?

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  1. As long as the recipe mentions being freezable, you can feel confident that it will work. If it doesn't say either way,
    you are better off baking and then freezing. The worst thing that will happen is that post-freezing, the texture may be sub-optimal but a lot depends on how well you wrap the item, how long you freeze it for, how cold your freezer is, and how often it is opened (since temperature fluctuation promotes formation of ice crystals).

    I am not going to make promises for how things will turn out. Your "phobia" is worry-wasting. Nothing dangerous will happen. The worst thing will be that something may not taste freshly-made (and warming in oven or microwave can remedy a lot of those). That's far from being "ruined", AFAIAC.

    8 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I don't bake but do have ONE cookie recipe :) I form the dough into logs, wrap tightly and freeze. I can tell no difference. I bet lots of baking isn't that way.

      @OP, are you pretty much talking about baking?

      1. re: c oliver

        for the most part, yes - but it's certainly not limited to that! I'd like to take advantage of the ease of having food already partially or fully prepared!

        1. re: The Oracle

          In that case, I'd recommend for freezing almost any soup or stew that doesn't contain potatoes (they do suffer texturally).

          Lasagna is another good candidate.

          For liquids or semi-liquids like soup/stew, leave an inch of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion. For lasagna or any other baked good: let cool completely, then wrap tightly in double layers of plastic wrap and/or foil. Excluding air is the key to preserving color, texture, and flavor.

          Gradual thawing is also key to preserving the food's best qualities: transfer them from the freezer to the fridge 24 hours before you want to re-heat.

          No matter how well wrapped and gently thawed, most frozen items are best within a couple of months of freezing.

          1. re: ellabee

            For things like a lasagna - do you personally double wrap the entire dish (all the way around - like a mummy)? Or would just the top suffice? And, when you do - I'm assuming you try to get the first layer of saran wrap close to the surface - pressing out any air pockets?

            Thanks for the expansion and thawing tips!

            1. re: The Oracle

              I haven't ever frozen a whole lasagna. With just a small bottom-of-fridge freezer, and two of us in the household, our pattern is to serve it twice, and freeze about a third of the cooked dish. So we're wrapping a rectangle that's out of the container. And we do try to "mummify" it, wrapping closely and trying to squeeze out any air pockets before wrapping with the second layer, whether plastic or foil.

              Others with whole-lasagna freezer experience will I hope jump in here. I think there are ways (parchment or foil slings and whatnot) to ease the removal of the cooled lasagna from the dish before freezing.

              The only situation where I could see myself freezing lasagna in the dish it baked in is if I were making it for an event in the semi-near future (so it can be taken elsewhere, re-heated and served with minimum fuss). We don't currently have room for that, but a small porch freezer is at the top of the list of household additions. I have many plans...

      2. re: greygarious

        >> As long as the recipe mentions being freezable, you can feel confident that it will work.

        This advice is somewhat specious, because it assumes the person writing the recipe knows what they're talking about. This is the internet, after all. Bullshit abounds!

        I'm not speaking to your specific baked goods, but having a general understanding of why freezing can damage food can help you make better decisions on your own about what to freeze.

        Home freezers work very slowly (as opposed to industrial freezers which flash freeze foods for long haul shipping). During the slow freeze, large ice crystals form. (The quicker the freeze, the smaller the crystals). It's the jagged edges on those large, sharp crystals which can wreak havoc with texture.

        With meats or delicate fish, for example, the ice crystals will puncture the muscle fiber and when you reheat it, the frozen juice will simply fall out, resulting in dry meat. If you freeze a soup, there's no texture to be ruined, so no harm no foul. In an airy souffle? It would be ruinous.

        Food for thought.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          A point about ice crystals. Years ago I read if you freeze white fleshed fish in water there is an equilibrium as the ice forms that will "protect" the cell structure. It made sense, since they are mostly water weight anyway, so I tried it & it does help. Once thawed they will be a bit 'waterlogged' & need a bit more time to cook but don't get as tough as those that are merely wrapped or vacuum sealed. This does not hold up for meat as the water content is not the same.

          1. re: seedyone

            Diners used to buy hundreds and in some cases over a thousand pounds of certain whole fish at the peak of the harvest when the market price bottomed out, filet them all at once and freeze them in SS trays of water. Once frozen the blocks were removed from the trays and stacked in the back of the walkin.

      3. I wouldn't have any fear if the recipe says you can freeze and bake. Most of degradation that items experience in the freezer is a change in texture, and if you're going to bake it, the texture is going to change anyway and the ingredients heat and combine, chemical reactions occur, etc.

        1. Greygarious had some very good observations re: temperature of freezer, length of time, how food is wrapped, etc. These are crucial to a good outcome and will can the difference between success, so-so and failure.

          For more years than I care to count, I have relied on a well-stocked freezer so be aware that I have a prejudice. I love having 'treasures' in there and look on them as money in the bank. I am careful to double-wrap carefully expelling as much air as possible and keeping the freezer below zero degrees.

          Some good information can be found in a tried-and-true cookbook by Helen Quat "The Wonderful World of Freezer Cooking", 1964. Yes, it is old and her information remains solid today. In addition to desserts, she has recipes for many other dishes. It is always nice to have something stashed in the freezer when unexpected dinner guests arrive. Also, I would hate to be without the many quarts of frozen stock I keep. Poultry parts live in the freezer until I am ready to make a large pot of stock, ditto for some vegetable trimmings. I have a stash of chicken livers [from whole chickens]for either a pate or Spaghetti Caruso. On and on and on.
          Full disclosure: I have two free-standing freezers.

          Can you target the reason for your freezer phobia? There is a lot of misinformation re: freezing, including the old "you cannot refreeze food". Yes you can IF the food has not come to room temperature. I have routinely frozen/thawed/frozem/thawed bread for many years with zero degradation.
          A Suzi-Homemaker freezer, AKA one that is attached to a residential fridge unit, will never be as efficient as a free-standing freezer unit. It simply cannot maintain zero degrees without freezing your lettuce and eggs. If you are using this type of freezer, your freezer storage time will be shortened.

          The residential freezer will also not do a great job of freezing raw produce since it does not reach freezing temperatures quickly enough to maintain optimum quality.

          For your question, both raw dough products and cooked baked good should freeze very well with certain exceptions. Meringues, spun sugar, cooked egg whites are a few examples of what does not freeze well. Cookie doughs that I have used has frozen beautifully. Yes, you can also freeze the baked cookies however, the dough takes more abuse and less space.

          Continue to accumulate information and, perhaps, your freezer phobia may disappear when you take the plung successfully. Might I suggest that you begin on a small scale? You may feel more confident with less at stake. Good Luck!

          35 Replies
          1. re: Sherri

            " residential fridge unit, will never be as efficient as a free-standing freezer unit. It simply cannot maintain zero degrees without freezing your lettuce and eggs. If you are using this type of freezer, your freezer storage time will be shortened."

            Does that include freezer on the bottom? I have that and keep the freezer below zero and have never had anything in the fridge freeze. And recently "found" a chunk of lamb should that FoodSavered had been in there for two years. It was still red and tasted just.

            1. re: c oliver

              c oliver, I should have been more clear/specific -- the side-by-side fridge-freezer units are what I was referring to; even some of the freezer-on-top units fit this category. Your freezer on the bottom sounds optimal and a great improvement on the side-by-side. Appliance repairmen have told me that those units use the freezer to cool the fridge; The air from the freezer is vented into the fridge so that there are 'cold' spots in the fridge [often in the produce drawers, hence the frozen lettuce] and these units will never be as efficient as a free-standing unit.

              1. re: Sherri

                There are side by side freezer fridge combo units that have separate condenser units so you can set different temperatures. The most well known is subzero. I can set the freezer at subzero temperatures and have the fridge set at a balmy 34.

                1. re: Bkeats

                  The "Suzi-Homemaker" unit that I referred to did not include a Sub-Zero and that ilk, which is certainly a step above the normal residential unit available to most. Sorry for the confusion. I have separate Sub-Zero freezer and fridge units while my son has the fridge-freezer single unit you reference. What you say is absolutely the truth and they love their fridge-freezer.

                  1. re: Sherri

                    One of the problems with a standard run of the mill (Not Sub Zero) residential refrigerator/freezer is that there is only one compressor and its small & light duty and therefore has a limited run time before it has to shut off and cool down. Each time the doors are opened cold air falls out. If the door is opened to frequently or kept open for to long, major temp fluctuations will occur because of the limited run time the compressor is capable of.

                    For long term freezing, I would recommend a designated freezer. No need for a commercial unit unless the door is going to be frequently opened.

            2. re: Sherri

              I think most of my phobia stems from lack of practice, and, perhaps too many freezer burn type discoveries (mostly in already frozen vegetables or ice cream!). I usually will eat the extra portions of left overs before it even dawns on me to freeze them. Lately, I find myself having more time on the weekend to cook and would love to do some bigger batch cooking and then have meals in the freezer ready to go.

              I do have a freezer on the bottom type fridge, but have never paid attention to what it's set at (I doubt it has an actual temperature read).

              Thanks for the book rec!

              I will definitely start experimenting! For things like stews/braises/soups, do you have a particular method of wrapping?

              1. re: The Oracle

                For stews i wait until its cooled to room temp, and then use a heavy ziplock bag and fill, squeeze out any air and lay flat until freezes hard. For tupperwares i fill as full as possible and then press out air as sealing on the lid. If not filling the tupperware full i use plastic wrap down to touching the soup and then seal with the lid.

                1. re: The Oracle

                  get a thermometer for both the fridge and the freezer. really helps.

                  1. re: The Oracle

                    I've had a Food-Saver vacuum sealer for years, and when I remember to use it, the results are awesome. Similar to what Ttrockwood suggests, for liquids I put it in an unsealed bag and freeze before vacuuming the rest of the air out and sealing it in the vacuum bags. The rolls of vacuum bag are great so I can make portions be whatever sizes I want. This is really helpful for ingredients or sauces that I have to make in large batches but only want to use in smaller quantities (e.g. ground roasted chestnuts, or fresh basil pesto). I find it a hassle to use the vacuum bags for stuff that I am keeping in the fridge and needing to reseal repeatedly, but it's fantastic for keeping meats, sauces, etc. unharmed by freezer burn for long periods of time.

                    1. re: Platypus3702

                      I just opened the one I got for Christmas and am loving it so far. Do you have a recommended place to buy the rolls? You find it's better to freeze beforehand even with meat?

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        Pre-cut bags are usually much cheaper. Pint / Quart / Gallon. Vacustrip seems to be the cheapest at this time, much cheaper than Foodsaver bags and they seem to work in all the machines. They also come in rolls. There is also a full mesh bag out there even cheaper but its not as thick as the vacustrip.

                        Webrestaurantstore & the Sweetattack both have pretty good online prices.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          Wow I'm shocked the precut are cheaper, but good to know. Thanks for the information.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            They also save 50% of the life of the sealer because your only sealing one side.

                            1. re: Tom34

                              What size do you find is best for a general purpose bag (mostly meats)?

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                I keep a roll of 11.5 wide around for the occasional huge item like a whole roast.

                                For individual fillets, small to med strips, individual servings of high end fish & smaller lobster tails I use the pints. Lobster tails get wrapped in butcher paper to cover the sharp edges of the shells.

                                For larger strip & rib streaks I use the quarts. Same for shrimp (also pre-wrap sharp shells with butcher paper).

                                I also keep a box of gallon size for smaller roasts & other bulky items.

                                *** my machine is an original nozzle style Food Saver and only leaves about 3/4 of an inch of unused bag material after the seal. Most of the newer machines leave considerably more so you have to keep that in mind***

                                Overall I would say the quart is the most used bag and can be much easier to use. Many times the pint is tight and doesn't leave a lot of material sticking out to be sealed.

                                When I order Vacustrip bags from webrestaurantstore, I usually order 300 pints, 300 quarts & 100 gallons. 300 count are a little cheaper and shipping doesn't increase much as you add items. Shipping to a business is also cheaper as is combining orders with other foodie friends.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  Great thanks. I ordered the pint and quart sized today. I did notice that shipping is kind of pricey but I guess you're saving on the actual product so it does make sense to order a lot at one time. I shipped it to work when I noticed that residential shipping was more expensive. I imagine gallon sized will be useful at times, but with only two of us probably less than the other sizes. I thought I'd see how they work before I settle on a collection.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    Yeah, you will find which sizes fit your needs over time.

                                    The Vacustrip bags really aren't much more $$ than a Ziplock "Freezer" bag (big $$ difference between regular Zip lock bags & long term freezer rated zip lock bags)

                                    No problem holding a steak a year in the vacustrip bags.

                                    I also keep an 18 inch wide roll of commercial plastic wrap under the counter for cheap items like chicken or items that will be eaten a month or so after freezing.

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      The poor chicken breasts were all left in the freezer attached to the fridge. They look quite lonely.

                                    2. re: fldhkybnva

                                      Costco sells them. I've never comparison shopped on prices for bags or rolls.

                                    3. re: Tom34

                                      I get that the sized bags work for you and I certainly will check out the source you mention. One reason I like the "make your own size" is that I like to make (in addition to the above) small bags for sliced jalapeƱos -enough for one pizza at a time. I can leave a bit less than a 1/4" of extra material beyond the seal.

                                      1. re: gourmanda

                                        I also do small batches of things once and a while. I have cut pre-made bags in half & made 2 out of 1.

                              2. re: Tom34

                                Thanks for the recommendation! I ordered the pint and quart bags as well as deli sheets for moist items. They arrived in literally 36 hours and have been great.

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  Great....glad they thing I find fits very nicely in a pint bag is a 4oz - 6oz lobster tail. Pre-wrap in butcher paper to cover the sharp edges of the shell and slide her in. Keeps for a year. I do a case at a time during the peak of the season when the price is very reasonable. Lobster on demand is a nice thing.

                                  1. re: Tom34

                                    Great, thanks for the tip. I did slip a pork chop in a pint sized bag but they're pretty small.

                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                      Butcher paper or even the brown paper from supermarket bags double upped will help cover the sharp edges of bones.....bone guard is avail but a little pricey.

                                      Pint bags also work well for scallops & fillets.

                              3. re: fldhkybnva

                                You are going to love it for a long time! I find the rolls to be most convenient as I sometimes make a really long bag and then can take out what I need (roasted red peppers, for example) and still have space to re-seal the bag. Best price is usually Amazon. Also, I love the attachment that lets you seal Mason jars (for dry food, obviously).

                                1. re: gourmanda

                                  Great thanks. Stupid question, do place the end of the bag just over the vacuum chamber or actually into it? I've had some issues vacuuming.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    I'd say about halfway in, over the drip tray but not to the back of the machine (if that makes any sense). Mine is just a small one, several years old, that sits on the counter so it might be a different set up. I do know if you have a wrinkle in the end it won't seal properly.

                                    1. re: gourmanda

                                      I don't think it was wrinkled. Ahh, so the bottom of the bag covers over the drip tray? I have a shallow space (1 inch or so deep) with an arrow that says "vacuum sealer." There's also this extra piece which fits into that slot which I'm not sure if it's meant to cover it for protection when not in use or that I'm missing something.

                                      1. re: gourmanda

                                        I'm an idiot. The darn drip tray wasn't even in the machine. I'm freezing something to seal in a few hours so will see if I can figure out the vacuum as well.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          Don't leave me in suspense--did it work?

                                          1. re: gourmanda

                                            Oh, yes, it did. I sealed up a stew a few days ago and it worked great. I put it in the bag first and let it freeze for a few hours and then sealed. I guess the bag edge just has to be over the vacuum seal opening. For some reason, I thought I had to stick it deep inside the opening.

                              4. re: The Oracle

                                You can pick up at any hardware store a small thermometer for checking temp in refrigerator or freezer.

                            2. I'd be lost without a freezer (or two).

                              Okay, I don't freeze baked bread, only bread dough.
                              I don't freeze most dairy (ricotta cheese comes to mind) because I don't like what happens when thawed and brands really vary on how well they hold up to a deep freeze.
                              What greyg said about wrapping properly is key and I double wrap sometimes (fish, cookie dough, homemade pasta). I also date everything and I organize the freezer by date.

                              I use ice cube trays to freeze small amounts of herbs, flavorings, broth, coffee cubes, etc. and bag those tightly to use during the week.

                              So with the exception of the few things I mentioned, I freeze most foods with no concern. Freezing leftovers and homemade prepared meals saves time and money, lets me stock up on items the markets are offering at a good price and extends my cooking/baking choices with those ice cubes I make.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: HillJ

                                Could you share your wrapping technique with me? For things that are non-solid (like the pasta), do you use a freezer bag and then just take as much air out as you can? Or use a freezer safe tupperware container and place a layer of saran wrap on top?

                                1. re: The Oracle

                                  When I make pasta from scratch or buy fresh and don't plan to use it all at once I wrap in portions. Once with wax paper and then all the portions that will fit snug but not tight in a clear ziplock, dated and tightly sealed (all air out). I don't like to use tupperware containers in the deep freeze unless I'm going to fill the entire container up (leaving maybe 1/2 inch for expansion). If you don't fill the container nearly full that's where you run into freezer burn issues. I use containers for leftovers and then place the container in a clear bag tightly sealed & dated. Those get used up quickly though. Like within 2-3 weeks.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    What purpose does the wax paper serve?

                                    1. re: The Oracle

                                      It's doesnt stick to wax paper as it would cling wrap, zip lock bag or foil for that matter.

                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                        Correct. Fresh pasta is sticky, gummy and the wax paper just makes packaging the portions a bit easier going.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Even a broken clock is right twice a day!

                              2. I make drop cookies through to the point where you form the cookies. Then I freeze them on a tray until solid, and transfer to another container. They come out fine, and I like the convenience of having them in the freezer. I also freeze baked brownies, muffins, and breads (both quick breads and regular bread). All are fine as long as you don't leave them in there forever; double foil wrapping is a good idea.

                                I also think a raw pie bakes up very well in the freezer. I never would have thought to do so except hearing Dorie Greenspan rave about it on The Splendid Table where she said home cooks don't use their freezers enough. I only do this for fruit pies, though. Don't do custards or dairy themed things; I don't think they would work.

                                You can also keep a bag of pre-measured pie crust ingredients (flour + fat) in the freezer, and then it's nice and cold when you're ready to make a crust.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: willownt

                                  How do you bake a pie in the freezer? ;)

                                  1. re: gourmanda

                                    Yeah, that sentence didn't come out right did it -- should be
                                    I also think a raw pie bakes up very well *from* the freezer.

                                    They are much nicer than a baked pie that has been frozen.