A freezer can be a highly useful appliance in your kitchen. You probably already use it to store staples such as frozen veggies and ground beef. However, you may have wondered about other items, especially if you're to reduce the spread of the new . Can you freeze milk, for instance? What about eggs and cheese?
As you'll see, there are several dry and refrigerated pantry items you can freeze too.
How long does frozen food last?
All foods will last indefinitely in a frozen state. However, the food is only as fresh as the state it was in prior to freezing. Once it defrosts, it must be used as soon as possible. In general, frozen food will keep for three months in a standard home freezer. The FDA has specific recommendations for the shelf life for foods, but if you aren't using your frozen goods within three months, you're probably buying too much.
What foods can you freeze?
According to the USDA, you can freeze almost any food. However, some foods don't freeze well; apples and pears will turn mushy when defrosted, cream sauces will separate and raw tomatoes will never be the same (but you can still put them in sauces).
The Dairy Council of California says it's fine to freeze milk as long as it's not past the sell-by date. One thing to remember when it comes to freezing milk (and other liquids) is that it will expand when frozen. So you'll need to leave extra space in the container or it will burst. It's better to pour the milk into freezer-safe containers first (jugs of milk take up way too much space anyway), then freeze. To use frozen milk, thaw it in the refrigerator or in cold water -- never let it thaw at room temperature.
Eggs are freezable but require a little bit of prep work before they go into the deep freeze. The American Egg Board recommends removing the eggs from their shells before you freeze them. To freeze whole eggs, crack each egg separately into a bowl. Beat just until blended (try not to whip too much air into the mixture). Pour the egg mixture into freezer containers, seal and label with the number of eggs and date, then freeze. Thaw the same way you would milk.
Not all cheeses should be frozen. Soft cheeses such as brie and double crème and low-fat cheeses should not be frozen because their texture and flavor is altered in the thawing process. However, cheddar, havarti, mozzarella, parmesan, feta or any "hard" cheese and all shredded cheeses freeze nicely.
Before you pop chunks of cheese into the freezer, cut them into hand-size portions, then wrap the pieces in aluminium foil before placing them in a freezer bag. Shredded cheese can go straight into a freezer bag. Make sure to remove any excess air before sealing, then freeze. When you're ready to use the cheese, thaw it in the refrigerator and use it within the next three days.
Both salted and unsalted butter freeze well. If it's regular stick butter, keep in its original carton and put that in a resealable freezer storage bag. For spreadable butter, you'll need to remove it from its original packaging because that's not freezer-grade, and transfer it to a freezer-safe container.
Sliced bread and whole loaves freeze extremely well. In fact, so do bagels, English muffins, baked biscuits, cookies and other bread products. When frozen correctly, bread products will maintain their freshness for at least three months. For breads right out of the oven, allow them to cool completely before wrapping. Wrap each loaf tightly in plastic wrap, then also wrap it in foil or freezer paper. Double wrapping will help keep it fresh.
Sliced bread, cookies or biscuits need to be flash-frozen first so they don't stick together. Lay them out individually on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Put the baking sheet into the freezer for at least 2 hours, then place the flash-frozen bread into a freezer-safe bag with all of the air pressed out. The best way to thaw frozen bread is in the microwave or oven.
Do you really need to freeze flour? Well, not all-purpose flour, although it will help extend its shelf life. However, whole-grain flours such as rye and wheat have a higher fat content than all-purpose and will turn rancid quickly at room temperature. So, these absolutely should be stored in the freezer. The only prep work you need to do for flour is to put it into a strong, food-grade plastic bag or container, then pop in the freezer. Do this for almond flour too.
Most chocolate will last a long time at room temperature, but if your room temperature is warmer than average, freezing your favorite chocolate bars and even truffles and bonbons is doable -- though it's a two-step process. In order to effectively freeze chocolate without altering its texture once thawed, you should bring its temperature down slowly. Wrap the chocolate tightly in heavy-duty freezer bags, then place the chocolate in the refrigerator for several hours before placing it in the freezer.
Using fresh herbs in recipes adds a brightness and flavor you just can't get with dried herbs. But what do you do with all that extra cilantro you bought for Tex-Mex night you didn't use? Mix an equal amount of chopped herbs and olive oil (or another oil) in a bowl. Then, scoop the herb mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out of the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. Toss a cube or two into your recipe when needed.
Cooked rice and pasta
This cooking hack is a time-saver. Cook large batches of plain pasta or rice, but leave them slightly underdone since this saves them from turning mushy when reheated. Let cool completely and package them into smaller portions in freezer-safe bags or other airtight containers. When you need pasta or rice for a recipe, sprinkle it with a bit of water and heat it up in the microwave.
Nuts should always be stored in the freezer. Because they're high in fat, they're perishable goods. Buying them in bulk can help you save money, but if you store them in the pantry at room temperature, they can go rancid. Chop nuts and place in an airtight bag or container and freeze. Just scoop out what you need for your recipe and leave the rest in the freezer.
This story was written by Debbie Wolfe for Chowhound.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.