What do you know about freezing food? According to research, the answer for most of us is, not much. There are lots of misconceptions out there which mean that we are wasting far more food and therefore money, than we need to. We worry a great deal about food safety and so throw lots of food away when in reality it is absolutely fine and perfectly safe to eat. This blog could turn out to be your biggest money saver of the week!
Let’s get some facts straight about freezing food and please know that you are not alone if this is new to you. Firstly, it’s a good idea to make sure your fridge is set up correctly. The ideal freezer temperature is 0°F or -18°C.
Myth 1. Food goes off in the freezer.
Food does not go off in the freezer, ever. What does happen to it is that over time, the quality ie texture or taste can deteriorate, but this will not make it unsafe to eat. The reason you get freezing guidelines on food is to do with the quality of the product rather than whether it is safe to eat. The FSA (Food Standards Agency) says that freezers should be thought of as ‘pause buttons’. Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA says “the freezer is like a pause button, so you can freeze foods right up to the ‘use-by-date’. Once defrosted, the pause button is off, so defrost food as and when you need it and eat within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted”.
Myth 2. Food can only be frozen on the day of purchase.
Food can be frozen right up until its ‘use-by-date’. The important message here of course is that you MUST make sure you freeze any product with a use by date before that date.
Myth 3. It’s dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked.
Food should only be frozen once in any state so once uncooked and once cooked. You can freeze food including meat and fish, uncooked, defrost it, cook it and re-freeze it as a cooked meal, but only once.
We need to understand that freezing instructions on foods are general guidelines as to how long a product will remain in top condition before the taste or texture may start to deteriorate and just like Best Before dates, have nothing to do with food safety. So if a product says freeze for up to 3 months and you know it’s been in there for 4, it’s probably worth defrosting it and giving it a go rather than binning it. The truth is that few of us have the palette of a food critic and so most of us really won’t be able to taste the difference, meaning its going to be fine to serve.
Fatty meat and oily fish will deteriorate faster than lean meat and white fish because the fat and the oil can become rancid in the freezer after a while so this might help to explain some of the differences in freezing guidelines. You can always remove fat from meat before freezing to increase the time that it can be frozen for.
Some things you may not have thought about freezing
Leftover mashed potato – shape it into portion sized balls, open freeze on a tray then transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. I do this all the time and it’s a great stand by. You can defrost it in the microwave and loosen it with a little milk or butter. This is a great tip particularly for people living on their own.
Whole fresh chillies – supermarkets make you buy big bags of these that you won’t use all at once so just freeze them and cook from frozen.
Root ginger – Peel it and cut into manageable chunks. It can be easily grated from frozen and added straight to dishes which is very handy.
Lemons – the juice and skins can be frozen. If a recipe asks for just the juice, freeze the skin until you need lemon zest. You can grate this from frozen.
Herbs – these are often wasted but fresh herbs can be frozen.
Leftover wine – (apparently this is a real thing) – freeze in ice cube trays or yoghurt pots and add to casseroles or gravies, just make sure you don’t put it in the kids summer juice!
Bread – freeze leftover bread for breadcrumbs
Leftover burgers or meat from roasts – this can be whizzed in a food processor to make mince before being frozen.
Yoghurts – frozen yoghurt makes a good and cheap alternative to ice lollies. You can even stick some fruit which may get unused or is close to going off in them.
Eggs – Yes you can freeze eggs! Beat until smooth then pour into a container, cover and freeze.
Make sure you label and date all food before putting it in the freezer to avoid UFO’s (unidentifiable frozen object). If food is past the freeze until date, don’t automatically throw it out, it might still taste perfectly ok and will definitely be safe to eat.
So remember, the freezer is like a big pause button, but try not to pause for too long, keep rotating food through or you’ll forget what’s in there. Just as we can think about not chucking £700 in the form of food waste, straight into the bin, don’t keep too much cash in your freezer, it’s not the bank.