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Freezer Tips for Summer Meals

Robyn Stone, creator of the beloved blog AddaPinch.com and author of the book Add a Pinch: Easier, Faster, Fresher Southern Classics, joins the Clever Cookstr to talk freezer tips and tricks, entertaining go-tos, and how Southern cooking is all about produce.

By
Kara Rota,
May 23, 2017
Episode #152

When it comes to everyday cooking, most people kind of want the same things: whole, fresh ingredients prepared in creative and tasty ways that can be made quickly, affordably, and without too much fuss or too many dishes. In her new book Add a Pinch, Robyn lets vegetables take center stage in easy Southern dishes.

Here, Robyn shares some of her freezer tips for preserving your tasty meals:

FREEZER TIPS

These guidelines are in accordance with the USDA standards regarding food storage and safety when freezing foods, so you can feel confident in how to prepare meals for freezing as well as how to serve them. 

Cool

Let cooked food cool thoroughly before packaging it. Never leave foods to cool on the counter, rather cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until completely cooled to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Package

Portion the food into freezer-safe bags or containers, removing as much air as possible or protecting the surface of the food prior to freezing. These are the containers I use most often:

• SEALABLE ZIP-TOP FREEZER BAGS are available in a wide range of sizes, but I suggest stocking up on quart and gallon bags. Be sure to get the heavy freezer bags and not the lighter storage variety. Press as much air out of the bag as you can while you seal it.

• DISPOSABLE FREEZER PANS are great for storing one-dish meals and casseroles and are available in various sizes. I wrap the filled pans with freezer-safe plastic wrap, pressing it onto the food to prevent exposure to air. I then wrap well with foil and seal well. I love that these can go straight from the freezer to the oven—just remove the plastic wrap and re-cover with the foil before you bake.

• FREEZER CONTAINERS with lids are wonderful for storing foods like soups, stews, and chilis. Many are labeled “freezer-safe”; the most common materials are heavy plastic, glass, and stainless steel. Fill the container as full as possible, leaving about ½ inch of space between the contents and the lid. To prevent freezer burn, “burp” the lid to remove as much air as possible.

Label

Label packaged items with a freezer-safe permanent marker. I like to use a black Sharpie marker and write directly on bags or foil pans, and on freezer tape for other containers. Include the contents, the date prepared, and the reheating instructions. When labeling, consider how the item will be stored in your freezer. Sometimes you may want to label items on the top as well as on the side.

Store

nce your items are packaged and labeled, freeze them quickly. For items packaged in freezer bags, I lay them on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer to quick-freeze them. Then for longer-term storage, I stand them on end (like books on a shelf). I also recommend storing like foods together. For instance, stack metal pans filled with casseroles in one area and flattened sealable bags of soups or chili in another. Such organization keeps your freezer neater while helping you quickly find just what you are looking for.

Serve

The best way to serve meals from the freezer is to let the dish thaw completely in the refrigerator the night before. If you’re tight on time, run foods in sealable bags or freezer containers under cool water for a few seconds to loosen, and then reheat in a saucepan or ovenproof container. If in metal pans, they can go straight from the freezer to the oven. Just remove the plastic layer and re-cover with the foil; then remove the foil the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to allow the dish to brown. Use an instant-read thermometer to check that it reaches 160°F before serving. Frozen meals generally require one and a half times the cooking time to reheat straight from the freezer. Frozen cooked foods will keep for two to three months. Uncooked items will keep for seven months. 

Excerpted with permission of Clarkson Potter from Add a Pinch, (c) 2017 Robyn Stone. All rights reserved.

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