Frozen food can be great for convenience, but mushy veg? Yuck. Freezer-burnt meat? Double yuck. The freezer is fab for keeping our leftover foods safe for later consumption, yet sometimes the defrosted outcome can be disappointing.
The good news: this needn’t be the case. With a few tweaks to our freezing and defrosting routines, we can have meals that are as tasty coming out of the freezer for a second sitting as they were freshly prepared.
Using up frozen leftovers in family meals is green, frugal and nourishing – and it needn’t be a punishment! Read on to find out how the experts do it…
How does food get damaged when freezing and defrosting?
The science behind soggy reheated frozen food
When leftovers freeze too slowly, big ice crystals form within the food and tear up the structure of the cells. When you come to defrost, the ice inside the food melts, the cells collapse and the reheated meal is left mushy and generally unappetising.
The science behind freezer-burnt meat stuffs
Freezer burn is caused by air reaching and dehydrating sections of the meat. This doesn’t make the leftovers unsafe to eat, so no need to chuck, however you should remove any freezer burnt sections before cooking the remainder.
The solution: plain old resealable freezer bags
If you’ve been throwing your leftovers into any old container before freezing, prepare for a taste revolution!
Look for products labelled specifically as ‘freezer bags’ in the supermarket or grocery shop. Freezer bags feature airtight seals, fairly thick plastic sides and are designed with greater durability than ordinary ‘storage bags’. With a little care, you should be able to wash and reuse them many times.
The frozen food technique: freeze flat, pressing out as much air as possible!
- Firstly, label your bag with a permanent marker, making sure to include the date. Open your freezer bag and fold the top few inches back on themselves to create a ‘sack’. This little trick helps to keep the seal clean as you fill the bag and gives the sides some additional rigidity.
- Fill the bag around two-thirds full, judging by eye. Fold the sides back up and seal the bag most of the way across, leaving a very small gap at the corner.
- Lay the bag of food down on a flat surface and, holding the unsealed corner up off the surface, gently smooth the food flat, pressing out the air from the corner of the seal as you do so. Once the food almost reaches the unsealed corner, seal the bag so it’s fully airtight.
- You should now have a neat, labelled bag of lovely leftovers. Lay this down flat in a freezer compartment until solidly frozen, then you can stack or file your frozen foodstuffs as you wish for super efficiency!
Double-fast defrosting tip
Can you find space in your cupboards for an old aluminium pan or oven tray? Could come in handy! Aluminium conducts heat extremely efficiently, so frozen food placed onto aluminium will defrost twice as fast than if you simply left the item on the counter.