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7 top tips how to avoid “freezer”-tasting meals

cooking - freezer tips

If you make the effort to cook big batches of meals to save time and money – here is the essential guide how to preserve their amazing flavour and texture in the freezer.

 

 

 

My mum used to work in shifts so we ate a lot of freezer meal in my childhood. I did not like them. She usually made one-pot meals during the weekend and froze them (and any leftover from the weekend), we just had to take them out from the freezer and heat them on the hob – or later in the micro. To be honest, they somehow tasted “freezer”. So I wasn’t a fan of freezing ready meals for a while. But having family changes a lot of things, and freezer is a brilliant tool to save time. Mum was right to use it, she just did not know the little tricks of home freezing.

How to freeze meals to avoid “freezer”-taste?

#1 Freeze meals before finishing them or add the final ingredients freshly after thawing them

For example, pies are good to freeze before baking them. Prepare them in a big dish or small individual pots and freeze them.  If you use pie crust or puff pastry as a topping, add them freshly before placing the meal into the oven.

Cookie dough and shortcrust pastry also keep well in the freezer well for 2-3 months. Freeze cookie dough in cookie-size bites and you can bake them from frozen adding 3-4 minutes to the usual baking time.

Do not add pasta to your soup if you intend to freeze it. Add pasta freshly after thawing the soup: bring it to the boil, add pasta and simmer until the pasta is cooked.

#2 Add freshly made side dishes

Stews, ragus and chillies are best completed by a freshly made side dish – like couscous, rice or pasta. Offer with fresh sour cream/ yoghurt and garnish with fresh herbs. They will taste like you just made them. Soup can be accompanied with crunchy fresh bread rolls bread sticks.

#3 Use fresh herbs and toppings

Adding fresh ingredients revive any freezer meals. Soups will taste better adding fresh herbs, roasted seeds or crunchy croutons, chillies and stews are begging for a tablespoon of yoghurt or sour cream and herbs.

Pizza bases keep well in the freezer and I love to use them on days when I need to make something quickly. They can be topped with everything really – the best way to use up leftover cheese, ham, grilled veg, mushrooms, pasta sauces etc.


Pizza base - freezing tips

#4 Never freeze meals with un-freezable ingredients

Well, this is one of the most important tips avoid “freezer”-taste meals. Freezer changes the texture of meals, soft cheeses go grainy, high-water-content fruits and vegetable go a watery mess. Try not to freeze meals with potatoes in it – even cooked potatoes taste strange after freezing. Add potatoes to meals after reheating them.

#5 Warm meals up in the oven instead of micro

I found that reheating meals, like cooked meats and baked products in the oven – instead of a microwave oven – enhances the taste of freezer meals. They just taste as freshly made meals, just make sure they are piping hot throughout – but do not bake them for a long time as they can burn or dry out quickly.

#6 Freeze your food in appropriate containers

All food must be properly wrapped with minimal air inside. If food is exposed to the air in the freezer it dries out and get that awful freezer burn look and flavour. Not all plastic bags are going to protect the food in the freezer. Best to use bags that are designed for freezer use. You can use freezer and oven safe glass food containers too, or use Aluminium foil container for pies and lasagna, which can go from freezer to the oven. The point is all food should be in a completely and tightly closed container with the possible fewest air inside. They all must be labelled showing the content and the expiry date or the date when they were frozen.

#7 Maintain your freezer

I have to admit this is not my favourite household chore – hands up, who likes it? I suppose, you already know,  that a clean ice-free freezer reduces the electricity bill – but it also helps you to avoid “freezer”-taste. So, clean your freezer regularly: defrost it (if it is a not self-defrosting freezer); keep a regular inventory in your freezer: throw away too old items (all must be labelled as above explained) and organise the content. I know there are people who are able to keep up a system in their freezer and they have an up-to-date content list too… well, it is not me. So, I do inventory in every 2-3 weeks usually before planning the weekly meal plan and I plan in my frozen treasures into the following week’s plan.

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What foods are not suitable for freezing?

• Celery (except if you want to use it cooked), cumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes, radishes, sprouts, salad greens

• Apples, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, limes, oranges, watermelon, strawberries and other berries (except if you use them from frozen in crumbles or smoothies)

• Soft cheeses, cottage cheese, cream cheese, custard, eggs in shells, mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing, yoghurt

• Crumb toppings on casseroles and baked dishes, fried foods, pasta

 

What foods are the best for freezing?

 

These meals freeze well and taste really good reheated – actually some of them tastes even better after freezing. They can be eaten as a meal complemented with a fresh side dish or topping – or they can be the base of a new meal e.g. roasted vegetables can be used as filling in quiche or base for a tasty and quick soup. Anyway, you can save time and money to freeze them 🙂

Green beans - freezer tips

  • Casseroles
  • Chilies
  • Slow-cooked meals like ragu and stews
  • Cooked and roast meats
  • Meatballs
  • Ratatouille
  • Roasted vegetables (like roasted courgette, aubergine, pumpkin, squash)
  • Soups
  • Baked goods: muffins, pancakes, bread rolls, bread
  • Cookie dough
  • Shortcrust pastry
  • Cheesecakes
  • Pizza, pizza base
  • Pasta sauces (tomato based)
  • Lasagne
  • Fishcakes
  • Vegetable burgers
  • Mashed potato

You can read about freezer food safety here:

Tips for Freezing and Thawing Foods

and

How to store food safely

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6 FAMILY MEAL IDEAS
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