Freezing food – the dos and don’ts

ice-cubesWe’ve heard often enough that freezing almost any type of food can prolong its life.

While there is a certain level of truth to this, it’s not exactly that black-and-white. There are limits to what can be frozen, as well as how long certain foods can be frozen for. In today’s article, we offer some a simple overview of what to consider when it comes to freezing meats or dairy products.

Meats

When it comes to freezing food, meat is typically the main food type that is frozen (along with vegetables and some dairy products). In regards to meat, it is absolutely fine to freeze both raw and cooked meats. However, there are a couple of things to take into consideration with both.

For raw food, it should only ever be frozen once. So as soon as you purchase or get your hands on some meat, you should freeze it ASAP if you don’t intend to cook it up and eat it within a couple of days. If you don’t, bacteria grows. Freezing helps significant reduce the growth of this bacteria, which is why freezing raw meat ASAP is so important.

However, you should avoid taking frozen meat out of the freezer, thawing and then refreezing it if it doesn’t get used. That’s because during the thawing process, bacteria will start to grow again. If you simply chuck it back in the freezer, that bacteria won’t die. It’ll remain in the its current form, which could ultimately be bad for your health when you take out to consume at a later date. So, only thaw once.

The reason taking frozen meats out, thawing them and then cooking them isn’t a health risk is because once you cook the meat, it kills any bad bacteria that may have been there, provided the amount of bad bacteria was low. If you want, you can cook meat and then refreeze it because you’ve killed off the bad bacteria – this is in regards to domestic freezing, cooking and freezing should be avoided on a professional level.

However, before placing your cooked meat in the freezer, make it’s not overly hot. If you put it in the freezer while still hot, it could initially increase the temperature of the freezer and cause other meats in there to start thawing and then refreeze, which would encourage harmful bacteria growth.

Dairy products

When it comes to dairy products, it’s usually best to avoid freezing any of them. Overall, most dairy products besides butter (and, obviously, ice cream) don’t work too well when frozen. Sure, you can prolong their life, but typically freezing them impacts on the quality of taste. Not only that, but dairy products – such as milk, yoghurt, custard – expand when frozen. The same rules apply with other foods, but it’s far more significant with dairy goods. Have you ever frozen a milk bottle and noticed how much fatter it gets as a result.

Where possible, avoid freezing dairy. But if you must, make sure you place them in containers that will better account for expansion.

 

* Image source: ppdigital, used under Creative Commons 3.0

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