Freezer Basics

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Freezing food is both time-saving and economical. There’s nothing better than coming home from work and having a delicious dinner just waiting to be heated up. Here are some tips to help your frozen food taste fresh along the way.

FREEZER TEMPERATURE:
The optimal temperature of your home freezer is 0 degrees to negative 10. Turn the temperature down to the lowest setting for the quickest freeze. The rear center is found to be the coldest spot in a home freezer. Setting your casseroles there will ensure a fast freeze. To improve air circulation and to keep a low temperature, remove unwanted clutter in your freezer by clearing out old food. This will help things stay frozen and prevent freezer burn. Also keeping food away from freezer vents will help with the circulation.

FREEZING WHOLE INGREDIENTS:
It’s important to freeze vegetables when they’re at their peak of flavor. Wash the vegetables well and trim or cut into the desired size. Blanch them in a large pot of boiling water until bright green or slightly tender, depending on the vegetable. Shock the blanched vegetables in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from ice water and dry thoroughly. Freeze in labeled freezer bags or freezer safe containers. Enjoy your summer harvest all winter long.

COOLING:
Completely cool casseroles and sauces for at least 2 hours before putting them in the freezer. Any residual heat will cause condensation and a layer of frost to form on the top. The flavor will fall flat after reheating. Also, the temperature will quickly rise if you add anything warm to the freezer, causing other foods to thaw and freezer burn to form.

STORING:
Wrap baking dishes tightly with foil and plastic wrap before freezing. Use airtight, small containers, leaving very little air between the packaging and the food. Using small containers guarantee that the food will freeze faster. Liquids, like thin soups and stocks, will need an inch of room since they expand when they freeze. Use freezer quality products, which will help your food from absorbing other smells in your freezer. Wrap baked goods, like muffins, in aluminum foil and then into freezer bags. Let pancakes cool completely then stack between layers of parchment and place in a freezer bag. For the best quality, store poultry for 6-9 months, beef 3-4 months, fish between 3-6, and fruits and vegetables for 8-12 months.

REHEATING INSTRUCTIONS:
For casseroles, let defrost in the refrigerator the night before you want to reheat it. Unwrap and loosely cover with foil. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake until the center of the casserole reaches 160 degrees. For large 13x9 casseroles, this should take about 35 minutes. Paula’s “Lots O’ Meat Lasagna” is a perfect freezer recipe.

For soups, stews, and sauces, defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat in a saucepan on the stovetop. You can also defrost in the microwave. Just check every minute or so to make sure you aren’t overcooking and to give it a stir.

Capture some summertime in your freezer with “Chef Jack’s Corn Chowder”.

Or for something to warm you up in the winter, try “Paula’s White Bean Chili”. Just remember to add the herbs after freezing and defrosting for a fresher flavor.

For baked goods, like muffins, let defrost for one hour at room temperature then toast, for best quality.

For pancakes, pop into your toaster oven still frozen to enjoy a quick breakfast.

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Reader Comments:

54321

Love this site...Keep the Old Lady Southern, I am one of these wonderful 70 Year old ladies, charm, wit and food coming. This is great info.

By marjorie baumann on July 13, 2013

54321

I absolutley love you and all your shows, this was a greatful tip because I often don't know what I can freeze. I find it hard to make meals for my son and I without having a lot of leftovers!! Thank-You now I know you can freeze and it's still GOOD smile

By Tammy on June 14, 2013

54321

Just wanted to thank you for having this site. I became familiar with you and your wonderful personality when your cooking pottery caught my eye. I now have all of the red spotted pottery except the roasting pan (haven't found it yet). Love these pots and pans, for real! I have also been a diabetic for several years and am always learning new ways to cope with this ongoing way of life. Always love a challenge. Hope all is well with you and yours. Jo

By jojof2004 on March 09, 2013

54321

I MAKE THE APPLE DUMPLING RECEIPE USING MT. DEW SODA, MY HUBBY LOVES LOVES THEM. AM HUNGRY FOR YOUR LEMON-MERREINGE PIE. A FRIEND OF MINE MADE YOUR APPLE CAKE RECEIPE SHE LIVES IN ARK. SHE LOVED IT, FIRST TIME I MADE IT DIDN;T TURN OUT LIKE WHEN YOUR UNCLE MADE IT, WANT TO GIVE IT ANOTHER TRY. I HAVE A COUSIN BY MARRIAGE SHE USE TO BE A HOME ECCONOMIST, SHE MADE A DELICIOUS APPLESAUCE CAKE IN BUNDT PAN OR TUBE PAN AND PUT COCCOA AND CHOC. CHIPS. MADE IT EVERY CHRISTMAS, I HAVE MADE IT IT IS TO DIE FOR. LOVE YOUR NEW SHOWS, SO HAPPY TO SEE MICHELLE AND LITTLE HENRY. AND ALWAYS MIKIE. NOW WHEN ARE U GOING TO GET JAYBIRD, BUBBA, MIKE AND YOUR BOYS AND ANTHONY AND LET THEM DO A SHOWW JUST THEM. HUGS FROM NEW ENGLAND ROE

By Roe Herdman on February 20, 2013

54321

Can you freeze cream cheese? I get it when I buy bagels at Panera's and I have several on hand and don't know what to do with them. Do you have any recipes that use cream cheese? HELP!!!

By Joan Welton on November 08, 2012

54321

How do I unthaw home made pie crust.

By Elizabeth on January 10, 2012

54321

Great ideas, I love your shows and also have your cookware "love it" Patty

By Patty Cason on January 02, 2012

54321

In the photo Freezer Basics, there are tomatoes in plastic bags. Can you freeze whole tomatoes like that ??? Please say you can Pauline F. Kalenik

By Pauline Kalenik on October 11, 2011

54321

What is the best way to freeze apples. We have to many this year.

By Jackie on September 13, 2011

54321

HI,MISS.PAULADEEN. MY IS (ROSIE FRAZIER)AN I LIVE IN DENVER,CO.AM A BIG FAN OF YOUR,ONE DAY I WAS ON THE INTERNET.AND I HAPPING TO LOOK ON TO ONE OF YOUR RECIPES.WHICH IS 'PEACH COBBER' AND I MADE IT AND IT WAS SO DEIOUSE.THANK YOU FOR YOUR RECIPES AND I WILL CONTINUAL ON COOKIKNG MORE FORM YOUR RECIPES, KEEP ON SMILESING

By ROSIE FRAZIER on June 23, 2011

54321

The one thing that has helped me more than anything in putting fresh vegetables in the freezer...a vacuum sealer, also known as a Foodsaver. With squash, just wash well, let dry(doesn't take long) cut the ends off and slice. Put the squash in the bag...seal...then the freezer. I fixed some recently that was about 3 years old...tasted just like it did when it was right out of the garden!! I've frozen green beans and tomatoes also. With okra...cut it up, batter it and freeze it..then bag and seal it...my life is so much easier using this appliance. No,this isn't an advertisement for the vacuum sealer...lol Sure makes vegetables great to eat in the winter though!!!

By Rhonda on May 19, 2011

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Paula, I see you have tomatoes frozen. What is the secret to doing this? Mine when thawed turns to just mush. Thanks Cynthia

By Cynthia DeVaux on May 19, 2011

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Great ideas, I also like to cook ground beef chix ect. and pull them out of the freezer for quick cooking.

By LaDonna on May 19, 2011

54321

I found making pots of spaghetti sauce, chili, casseroles, stews and soups, breaking them into 2 person servings and freezing is great. We are empty nesters and I can make meals ahead of time and freeze them. I don't have to cook very much when I get home from work and we can still have all the great meals we had when the kids lived at home. Portion freezing has saved me a tone of money and time.

By Cathie Kramer on May 19, 2011

54321

A trick I read long when I was a new bride (30 yrs) was to line a casserole with foil, once cooked and cooled, cover tightly and freeze. Once it's frozen solid it can be removed from the casserole and wrapped in plastic or put in a plastic bag and kept in the freezer. That frees up your casserole dish. When your ready to eat that food unwrap the plastic, and place it in the casserole dish to reheat in.

By Donna Davis on May 19, 2011

54321

muchas gracias por los consejos de conservación de los alimentos, me ha sido de gran ayuda, y felicidades por la pàgina tan bonita que tiene, un saludo luisa raquel

By luisa raquel on January 07, 2011

54321

This was a very informative article and included many very useful tips for freezing and defrosting! Thank you once again Paula Deen for your expertise!!!

By Irene Purdy on January 06, 2011

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By Anonymous on January 05, 2011

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Hey Felicia...regarding your message.... With delicious peaches from Ga.coming in here, how do you freeze them for use later in Paula’s delicious peach recipes? By Felicia Graff on September 14, 2010 Here in Palisade CO, we also have some fantastic peaches, we just take them home, do not wash, just place in a freezer bag and freeze them whole. When ready to use, defrost a bit, the skin falls off, the pit is easy to remove, ready to use. I love to eat them very cold.

By Terri Hasstedt on January 04, 2011

54321

Love the article! Makes me want to go home and clean out freezer and restock with yummy healthy dinners. Would love to come home after long day at work and pop something homecooked in the oven, thanks Paula for the great tips!

By Staci Gray on January 04, 2011

With delicious peaches from Ga.coming in here, how do you freeze them for use later in Paula’s delicious peach recipes?

By Felicia Graff on September 14, 2010

Is it ok to freeze cheese and what is the best way to store it?  Thanks Paula, love your show!

By Dee on September 14, 2010

In answer to Stephanie Morphew ? about freezing tomatoes:  I first use sharp knife to make “x” in top of tomato skin and drop into boiling water for a few seconds and skins will peel right off. I then like to squeeze out tomato Gel/seeds and place tomatoes in containers if using whole and place in freezer. I like to quarter mine and freeze individually on cookie sheet and place in freezer bag so whatever amount you need, just pull out of bag without having to thaw all of them. I keep in freezer for soups, chili’s, casseroles, etc.  Hope this helps.

By Sherry P. Carson on May 11, 2010

I see there is whole tomatoes in your freezer..how well do those freeze? And how would a person go about freezing them? Thanks

By Stephanie Morphew on March 15, 2010

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
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I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.
in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
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