Ah, the humble freezer, whether you’re a fan of the fridge/freezer combo or prefer a sturdy chest design, a freezer is a staple in households across the nation.
And it’s easy to see why, as freezing food is a clever way to avoid food waste, and can be a lifesaver when it comes to pulling together dinner after a long day at work – just reheat and eat!
Just be sure to freeze the day you buy. “Freezing on the day of purchase is important to preserve the food in its best condition,” says Lauren Clark, Large Appliance expert at AO.com.
“Some fridge/freezer models have a fast freeze feature which is ideal for when you’ve just got back from the shop and need to get food straight into the freezer; it will get your food to the right conditions and lock in all the nutrients.”
Freezing foods is a great way to buy things on sale and preserve them for later. And, while most foods can be frozen with no problems it’s worth noting that some need preparation before being frozen.
If you start freezing the wrong foods you could be left with a lot of mess and even worse, a lot of inedible food. From eggs and courgettes to dairy products, here’s why these six foods should never be frozen (as well as our top tips on how to store them to prolong their life).
When whole eggs are frozen the yolk and white expand which can cause the shell to crack, leaving you with a mess and an unpleasant smell, which nobody wants or needs.
The best way to store eggs
Beaten eggs can be stored in an airtight container and frozen. Simply add a label with the date and the number of eggs inside. You can also store beaten egg whites and yolks separately. The yolks need a little more care when frozen to avoid them thickening. Simply blend 0.5ml salt or 7ml sugar per 4 yolks. If keeping eggs in their shells they’re best at the back of the fridge where the temperature is consistent.
Any fruit or vegetables with high water content should be kept out of the freezer because they will turn icy once frozen, and will never return to their former selves afterwards. Once the fruit or vegetables thaw they lose their crisp texture and turn limp or soggy.
The best way to store courgettes
Refrigerate courgettes in a vegetable storage bag in the crisper draw, eat within 2-3 days and do not cut until ready to use. If you want to freeze high water content fruit or vegetables like tomatoes or apples, it is best to puree them first.
Placing hot food straight into the freezer will lower the temperature inside and cause other foods to partially defrost. This helps bacteria grow and means all the food in your freezer is at risk of contamination.
The best way to store hot food
You should always wait until food is fully cooled before putting it in the freezer. Once cooled, placed into the appropriate container and label with date and content, nothing worse than defrosting a chicken stock when you were looking forward to bolognese.
Soft cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and yogurt should never go in the freezer. These dairy products will separate and turn watery after being frozen and will be unpleasant to eat if you want to serve them up on their own. If they’re used for cooking they can easily be mixed back together however, and in a sauce or recipe you shouldn’t notice too much of a difference.
The best way to store dairy products
Dairy products should be refrigerated and tightly sealed separately. If opening a large pot of Greek yogurt for example, pop leftovers in an airtight container and keep nice and cool on the fridge door.
Raw whole potatoes will develop internal ice crystals once frozen due to their high water content. Then, once thawed, the potato will be mushy inside and unusable – far from ideal.
The best way to store potatoes
It is best to keep your potatoes in a cool, dry place in a paper bag away from daylight (to stop them from sprouting). A cupboard is great and the paper bag will help keep the potatoes fresher for longer. If you do want to freeze potatoes it is best to cook them first, they might still be a little watery when thawed but they will be edible.
Recipes often only require a tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs and it can be tempting to freeze the excess. However when frozen, breadcrumbs soften and once thawed have a mushy texture, which isn’t ideal if you’re looking to get a nice crispy coating on something. This also applies to crumble mixture.
The best way to store breadcrumbs
It is always best to make your breadcrumbs fresh and use them on the day. Dry breadcrumbs can be stored in an airtight container for a few weeks in a cool place. Freeze the fruit or meat part of a crumble or casserole separately and add the topping once thawed to make sure you retain a lovely crunchy finish.
How many times has a bag of salad greens gone soggy in the bottom of your fridge because you just didn’t get round to eating it? Well sadly freezing it isn’t an option as the water content of the vegetables is so high. This can cause freezer burn, which makes veggies inedible.
The best way to store salad
In the veg drawers of your fridge. If it’s a bag of leaves, once opened pop a sheet of kitchen roll in there to soak up excess water and keep your salad fresher for longer.
What happens to bacteria when you freeze food?
Freezing food is essentially a pause. When you freeze your food it renders bacteria inactive but doesn’t kill anything. So, if you put your food in the freezer slightly contaminated, once thawed, and especially if it is at room temperature, the bacteria return with a vengeance.
“Always check the temperature of your freezer,” says Lauren. “Consistently opening your freezer and/or fridge, especially on hot days heats up the inside of your appliance, so it’s important to keep your door shut as often as possible.”
Cooking the food thoroughly is the only way to ensure safety. ” And, it’s important that once food has been defrosted it is eaten on the day it was thawed,” adds Lauren. “,The bacteria will ‘wake up’ once thawed and multiply if not cooked as soon as defrosted.”
With this in mind you should always defrost foods, especially meat, in your fridge and never at room temperature. And, once food is defrosted, eat it within 24 hours.
Safest way to defrost frozen food
Food should always be thoroughly cooked after defrosting. Failing to do so could mean the outside of the food may be cooked, but the centre might not be, which means it could contain harmful bacteria. The
According to Food.gov.uk, you should ideally leave enough time to defrost food in the fridge before cooking. Or if you have the budget you could look at investing in a fridge freezer that can do it for you. “There are many models which have a dedicated drawer to help thaw out food safely,” says Lauren.
“But if your freezer doesn’t have this feature it’s best to put frozen food in an airtight container and into the fridge overnight.
“If an airtight container isn’t possible, place them in a seal lock bag or on a plate to prevent any juice or excess water leaking onto other items.”
However in this time-poor world we live in, if you don’t have time to leave it overnight, you can place the frozen food in a sealed container and leave under cold running water.
Be sure to only use cold water, while using warm or even hot may seem ‘the sensible thing to do’ to get it to defrost quicker, you run the risk of the food getting too warm.