what and how to freeze food

i saw on alton brown’s Good Eats show a few years ago that the more packed your freezer is, the better it keeps your food. while that’s good to know, it’s also important to know what you keep and how long you keep them. here are some tips from Eating Well Magazine:

Myth: You can freeze all foods.

There are some that should never see the inside of your freezer: delicate vegetables like lettuce, creamy sauces separate and “break” or curdle when thawed, coffee especially dark roasts. The USDA also advises not to freeze canned goods or eggs in their shell. (But you can freeze canned goods if they are removed from their original packaging, as well as eggs as long as they are removed from their shell.)

Myth: You can freeze food indefinitely.

Quality suffers the longer food is frozen. Here are some guidelines from the USDA as to how long to keep food in your freezer (at 0 degrees F) for optimal freshness:

  • Soups, stews and casseroles: 2-3 months
  • Cooked meat 2-3 months
  • Uncooked steaks, roasts or chops: 4-12 months
  • Cooked poultry: 4 months
  • Uncooked poultry: 9-12 months

Air coupled with moisture is the enemy of frozen food (think freezer burn), so if you can keep those two elements out you’ll give your frozen foods a longer life. Vacuum sealer sucks air out of the packaging so foods last longer than if they’re just stored in plastic bags or their original packaging.

Myth: Freezing kills bacteria.

Freezing foods renders bacteria inactive but doesn’t actually kill anything. That means if your food went into the freezer contaminated, once thawed it will still harbor the same harmful bacteria. Cooking it to the recommended temperature is the only way to ensure that your food is safe.

Myth: Frozen food has fewer nutrients than fresh.

Frozen fruits and vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets because they tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when, as a general rule, they are most nutrient-packed. If you’re worried about nutrient loss, eat your frozen fruits and veggies soon after purchase: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. Finally, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.

Myth: Once thawed, food cannot be refrozen without cooking it first.

You can freeze and refreeze to your heart’s content as long as the food has not been left outside the fridge for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour in 90-degree heat). One point to be aware of is that refreezing anything uncooked, especially meat, will degrade the quality due to the loss of moisture in the thawing process. So although it is technically safe to eat, from a culinary standpoint, it’s best to avoid refreezing if at all possible.

Myth: You can store frozen food long-term anywhere in your freezer or anywhere that’s cold.

The door of the freezer is a handy place to store frozen items, but not necessarily the best place for long-term storage. Store frozen foods toward the back of the freezer where a constant 0 degrees F is more likely to be achieved and use goods stored near the front or on the door sooner. And if the power goes out? Don’t open the freezer door – a full freezer should remain frozen for 2 days. And if you’re tempted to store your freezer overflow in a snowbank – don’t. Even if the temperature is very cold, the sun can still heat up your frozen foods to dangerously warm temperatures.

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read article on Yahoo! Shine by Hilary Meyer and The Editors of EatingWell Magazine: 6 myths about freezing food

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