I'm planning on freezing a lot of food in the next few months in preparation for the baby and also for busy days with Jamie. I've been collecting recipes from people. I got some great recipes from MoneySavingMom.com. Even after finding the recipes I was a little lost on how to properly store these items or how long it would be okay to store them. To find the answer I did what any computer age mom would do... I googled. I thought I'd share what I found. This is extremely helpful to me. Now I can't wait to get cooking!
Foods in the freezer -- are they safe? Every year, thousands of callers to
the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline aren't sure about the safety of items stored
in their own home freezers. The confusion seems to be based on the fact that few
people understand how freezing protects food. Here is some information on how to
freeze food safely and how long to keep it.
What Can You
You can freeze almost any food. Some exceptions are canned
food or eggs in shells. However, once the food (such as a ham) is out of the
can, you may freeze it.
Being able to freeze food and being pleased with
the quality after defrosting are two different things. Some foods simply don't
freeze well. Examples are mayonnaise, cream sauce and lettuce. Raw meat and
poultry maintain their quality longer than their cooked counterparts because
moisture is lost during cooking.
Is Frozen Food Safe?
Food stored constantly at 0 °F will always be safe. Only the quality suffers
with lengthy freezer storage. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement
of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food
for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause
both food spoilage and foodborne illness.
Does Freezing Destroy
Bacteria & Parasites?
Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes
-- bacteria, yeasts and molds - - present in food. Once thawed, however, these
microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to
levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about
the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as
you would any perishable food.
Trichina and other parasites can be
destroyed by sub-zero freezing temperatures. However, very strict
government-supervised conditions must be met. It is not recommended to rely on
home freezing to destroy trichina. Thorough cooking will destroy all parasites.
Freshness & Quality
Freshness and quality at
the time of freezing affect the condition of frozen foods. If frozen at peak
quality, foods emerge tasting better than foods frozen near the end of their
useful life. So freeze items you won't use quickly sooner rather than later.
Store all foods at 0° F or lower to retain vitamin content, color, flavor and
The freezing process
itself does not destroy nutrients. In meat and poultry products, there is little
change in nutrient value during freezer storage.
Enzyme activity can lead to the
deterioration of food quality. Enzymes present in animals, vegetables and fruit
promote chemical reactions, such as ripening. Freezing only slows the enzyme
activity that takes place in foods. It does not halt these reactions which
continue after harvesting. Enzyme activity does not harm frozen meats or fish
and is neutralized by the acids in frozen fruits. But most vegetables that
freeze well are low acid and require a brief, partial cooking to prevent
deterioration. This is called "blanching." For successful freezing, blanch or
partially cook vegetables in boiling water or in a microwave oven. Then rapidly
chill the vegetables prior to freezing and storage. Consult a cookbook for
Proper packaging helps maintain
quality and prevent "freezer burn." It is safe to freeze meat or poultry
directly in its supermarket wrapping but this type of wrap is permeable to air.
Unless you will be using the food in a month or two, overwrap these packages as
you would any food for long-term storage using airtight heavy-duty foil,
(freezer) plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a (freezer)
plastic bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to repackage
family packs into smaller amounts. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry
before freezing. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a
package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer,
the food is still safe to use; merely overwrap or rewrap it.
Freezer burn does not make food
unsafe, merely dry in spots. It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is
caused by air reaching the surface of the food. Cut freezer-burned portions away
either before or after cooking the food. Heavily freezer-burned foods may have
to be discarded for quality reasons.
Color changes can occur in frozen foods. The bright red color of
meat as purchased usually turns dark or pale brown depending on its variety.
This may be due to lack of oxygen, freezer burn or abnormally long storage.
Freezing doesn't usually cause color changes in poultry. However, the
bones and the meat near them can become dark. Bone darkening results when
pigment seeps through the porous bones of young poultry into the surrounding
tissues when the poultry meat is frozen and thawed.
The dulling of color
in frozen vegetables and cooked foods is usually the result of excessive drying
due to improper packaging or over-lengthy storage.
Freeze food as fast as possible to maintain its quality.
Rapid freezing prevents undesirable large ice crystals from forming throughout
the product because the molecules don't have time to take their positions in the
characteristic six-sided snowflake. Slow freezing creates large, disruptive ice
crystals. During thawing, they damage the cells and dissolve emulsions. This
causes meat to "drip"--lose juiciness. Emulsions such as mayonnaise or cream
will separate and appear curdled.
Ideally, a food 2-inches thick should
freeze completely in about 2 hours. If your home freezer has a "quick-freeze"
shelf, use it. Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, spread them out in
one layer on various shelves, stacking them only after frozen solid.
Refrigerator - Freezers
If a refrigerator freezing
compartment can't maintain zero degrees or if the door is opened frequently, use
it for short-term food storage. Eat those foods as soon as possible for best
quality. Use a free-standing freezer set at 0° F or below for long-term storage
of frozen foods. Keep a thermometer in your freezing compartment or freezer to
check the temperature. This is important if you experience power-out or
Length of Time
freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, recommended storage times are for
quality only. Refer to the freezer storage chart at the end of this document,
which lists optimum freezing times for best quality.
If a food is not
listed on the chart, you may determine its quality after defrosting. First check
the odor. Some foods will develop a rancid or off odor when frozen too long and
should be discarded. Some may not look picture perfect or be of high enough
quality to serve alone but may be edible; use them to make soups or stews. Cook
raw food and if you like the taste and texture, use it.
Never defrost foods in a garage, basement, car,
dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on
the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.
three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the
microwave. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator.
Small items may defrost overnight; most foods require a day or two. And large
items like turkeys may take longer, approximately one day for each 5 pounds of
For faster defrosting, place food in a leak proof plastic bag
and immerse it in cold water. (If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or
surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Tissues can also
absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.) Check the water
frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change the water every 30 minutes. After
thawing, cook immediately.
When microwave-defrosting food, plan to cook
it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and
begin to cook during microwaving.
food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking,
although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through
defrosting. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to
freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the
refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion.
If you purchase
previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if
it has been handled properly.
Cooking Frozen Foods
Raw or cooked meat, poultry or casseroles can be cooked or reheated from the
frozen state. However, it will take approximately one and a half times the usual
cooking time for food which has been thawed. Remember to discard any wrapping or
absorbent paper from meat or poultry.
When cooking whole poultry, remove
the giblet pack from the cavity as soon as you can loosen it. Cook the giblets
separately. Read the label on USDA-inspected frozen meat and poultry products.
Some, such as pre-stuffed whole birds, MUST be cooked from the frozen state to
ensure a safely cooked product.
LOOK FOR THE USDA OR STATE MARK OF
The inspection mark on the packaging tells you the
product was prepared in a USDA or State-inspected plant under controlled
conditions. Follow the package directions for thawing, reheating, and storing.
Power Outage in Freezer
If there is a power outage,
the freezer fails, or if the freezer door has been left ajar by mistake, the
food may still be safe to use. As long as a freezer with its door ajar is
continuing to cool, the foods should stay safe overnight. If a repairman is on
the way or it appears the power will be on soon, just don't open the freezer
A freezer full of food will usually keep about 2 days if the door
is kept shut; a half-full freezer will last about a day. The freezing
compartment in a refrigerator may not keep foods frozen as long. If the freezer
is not full, quickly group packages together so they will retain the cold more
effectively. Separate meat and poultry items from other foods so if they begin
to thaw, their juices won't drip onto other foods.
When the power is
off, you may want to put dry ice, block ice, or bags of ice in the freezer or
transfer foods to a friend's freezer until power is restored. Use an appliance
thermometer to monitor the temperature.
When it is freezing outside and
there is snow on the ground, it seems like a good place to keep food until the
power comes on; however, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun's rays
even when the temperature is very cold. Refrigerated food may become too warm
and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by
hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food.
Additionally, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to
animals. Animals may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has
come in contact with an animal.
To determine the safety of foods when
the power goes on, check their condition and temperature. If food is partly
frozen, still has ice crystals, or is as cold as if it were in a refrigerator
(40 °F), it is safe to refreeze or use. It's not necessary to cook raw foods
before refreezing. Discard foods that have been warmer than 40 °F for more than
2 hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices.
Dispose of soft or melted ice cream for quality's sake.
Accidentally frozen cans, such as those
left in a car or basement in sub-zero temperatures, can present health problems.
If the cans are merely swollen -- and you are sure the swelling was caused by
freezing -- the cans may still be usable. Let the can thaw in the refrigerator
before opening. If the product doesn't look and/or smell normal, throw it out.
DO NOT TASTE IT! If the seams have rusted or burst, throw the cans out
immediately, wrapping the burst can in plastic and disposing the food where no
one, including animals can get it.
Shell eggs should not be frozen. If an egg accidentally freezes and
the shell cracked during freezing, discard the egg. Keep an uncracked egg frozen
until needed; then thaw in the refrigerator. It can be hard cooked successfully
but other uses may be limited. That's because freezing causes the yolk to become
thick and syrupy so it will not flow like an unfrozen yolk or blend very well
with the egg white or other ingredients.
Freezer Storage Chart (0 °F)
Note: Freezer storage is for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe
Bacon and Sausage 1 to 2
Casseroles 2 to 3
whites or egg substitutes 12
Frozen Dinners and Entrees 3 to 4
Gravy, meat or poultry 2 to 3
Ham, Hotdogs and Lunchmeats 1 to 2
Meat, uncooked roasts 4 to 12
Meat, uncooked steaks or chops 4 to 12
Meat, uncooked ground 3 to 4
Meat, cooked 2 to 3
Poultry, uncooked parts 9
Poultry, uncooked giblets 3 to 4
Poultry, cooked 4
Soups and Stews 2 to 3
Wild game, uncooked 8 to 12