How to Freeze Foods That "Don't Freeze Well"

by Linsey Knerl on 28 August 2012 3 comments

One of the most affordable ways to stretch the food budget is to increase the size of your recipes and store the extra in the freezer. Batch cooking, or even this modified version, can bless you during the hectic times with ready-to-go meals and a sense of preparedness. Before you commit to saving a meal for a rainy day via the freezer, check out this list of items that don't do so well in subzero temps (and how you can work around them). (See also: Save Enough on Meat to Buy a Chest Freezer)

The National Center for Home Food Preservation gives a pretty good list of items that shouldn't be frozen. In most of these instances, it isn't a safety issue; it is a quality one. Mushy or bland food isn't the goal of many, and most of these foods break down or lose their desirable qualities after being in the freezer. Foods you shouldn't freeze include the following.

Leafy Veggies

Produce such as cabbage, endive, lettuce, and the leaves of radishes, for example, will become limp and soggy after freezing. Other items that suffer from a “waterlogged” effect include cucumbers and celery.

Try this: Instead of freezing celery, radishes, parsley, spinach, and other leafy items in their whole, raw state, try them in soups and casseroles that will be frozen. You may also want to attempt a freezer-specific coleslaw or pickle recipe!

Fried Foods

Homemade fried appetizers will be soggy, not crisp, after freezing. Anything breaded and fried should not be put into the freezer after cooking.

Try this: Make your own breaded veggies and meats to be fried after freezing. Batter as usual, then allow to freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet before putting into a single freezer bag. When you're ready to fry, remove and cook!

Dairy

Sour cream, cream cheese, some soft cheeses, and mayonnaise will separate and lose the silky consistency you love after being frozen. Dishes with lots of these foods may get soggy as the water pulls away.

Try this: Milk freezes beautifully in the freezer while still in the carton. If you decide to freeze cheese, stick with harder varieties (cheddar, for example) and freeze as whole blocks or shreds in the original package. You may still see some of a “crumbly” effect, so commit to using previously frozen cheese in cooking — not as a component in a cold dish.

Eggs

Many popular freezer meals ask that you freeze cooked eggs, but the results are often disappointing. Cooked eggs can be watery, spongy, or mealy; egg whites can be tough.

Try this: If your frozen dessert requires a meringue topping, skip it until right before you serve it. Freeze the dessert base, then add them meringue as a fresh ingredient after thawing. The same should be done for any icings or whipped toppings made from egg whites.

Pasta

When cooked alone for later use, spaghetti, rice, couscous, and other starchy foods can get sticky and mealy in the freezer.

Try this: Mix the cooked pasta into a sauce or use it as part of a complete dish (like a casserole or soup) before freezing. Don't over cook pasta before freezing; al dente is your safest bet.

Potatoes

Similar to pasta, this starchy food gets mushy in the freezer. When used in a soup or casserole, it can break down completely, leaving your dish with a glue-like consistency.

Try this: Turn your potatoes into mashed (which freezes somewhat better), or consider a twice-baked potato recipe!

While there technically isn't a food that you can't freeze, if tasty meals are your goal, it's best to follow these rules. In a pinch, many on the “do not freeze” list can be tossed into the freezer in an emergency; you'll lose some quality, but it's still safe for consumption.

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Guest's picture
take_flight

I freeze cheese all the time, even cream cheese in the brick, not whipped. Whole cheeses do tend to get crumbly, so it's not very good for a cheese platter and plain ricotta, (not in a "freezer meal"), tends to get watery, but other than that I would say go ahead! It's really handy to have some cheese in the freezer to throw in soups, on baked meals, and in salads!

Guest's picture

I like these ideas. I do freeze my herbs in ice cube trays with water so I have them available all your long. Just have to pop one out and add to your dish.

Guest's picture
Thu

These are some great tips. I just learned (but have yet to try it out) that if you want to keep lobster for a bit, you need to steam it first, then freeze. This past weekend my parents froze raw lobsters and then steamed them, and the meat was mushy and fell apart easily.