Avoiding Freezer Burn
What Foods Don't Freeze Well
I am trying to implement Once A Month Cooking on a regular basis. However, the last meals coming from the freezer (weeks 3 & 4 for the month) all have either a "freezer" taste to them, ice crystals all over them, or both. This significantly alters the texture and taste of the food; my husband doesn't like it & won't eat it & it ends up going to waste. So much for my trying to save time and money!
I've tried different containers, freezer wrap & bags, foil, etc.--it doesn't seem to matter, the meals at the end of the month taste funny. Is there something I'm doing wrong, or are there some foolproof tips that your reader's can give me to remedy this problem? I would be most appreciative!
Loretta B. of Illinois
Don't know if this is practical for full meals but I freeze in glass jars and even months later there is no freezer taste. All plastic is petroleum products and unless you can vacuum seal, there is going to be a taste. I freeze all types of cooked vegetables and meats and it works great.
Check the temperature of the freezer. It should be close to zero for the best holding ability. Also, throw an open box of baking soda in the freezer. It will take keep the odors down that get into foods and taint the flavor.
Having worked in the frozen food section of a grocery store, I may be able to help! Loretta's problem results from periodic thawing and freezing of what's in her freezer. This is often due to poor air circulation, which will result when you "overstuff" the freezer. Having at least 4 inches of open space at the top (so you can see the back wall of the freezer) might help. If your freezer has a shelf, try to leave a little space underneath it to improve the air flow. If that doesn't solve the problem, check the door seal to make sure it's tight, and the freezer fan to see if it's running.
I do once a month cooking, too, and I don't have this problem. The thing that causes freezer burn is air, so the remedy is to wrap the food as airtight as possible. My method is to pack everything into zipper-seal freezer bags. Put a straw into the bag and zip the bag around it. Suck as much air out through the straw as possible, then quickly remove it and seal the bag the rest of the way. About the only thing this doesn't work for is something like lasagna - in that case I line the pan with heavy duty foil, freeze the lasagna, then pop it out of the pan, wrap the foil around it, and pack it into a freezer bag using the above method. The worst thing you can do is leave the food in the casserole dish with a lot of dead space between the top of the food and the wrapping. The same thing goes for plastic containers that aren't full - there is still air in the container, even if they try to tell you it's airtight. I've pulled "forgotten" food out of the freezer a couple of months after I've made it and it's still been perfectly good. Hope this helps!
Try a cheaper, old-fashioned freezer that isn't frost-free. The cold air isn't circulated, so the food stays fresher. We have a Montgomery-Wards freezer, circa 1970 (bought used, 1981), that keeps meals perfectly fresh for a few dollars a month.
To avoid freezer burn, I crumple up waxed paper on top of the frozen food and then cover with the lid. This helps eliminate freezer burn tremendously. This works well with soups, main dishes and all kinds of fruit. It is important to make sure the food has enough liquid in it too. For example, when freezing strawberries, I pack them in juice, put the waxed paper on top and them taste wonderful even after several months.
One suggestion is to try to make those meals in weeks 3 and 4 be something that is not already a complete meal but is cooked. Example I brown my hamburger meat ahead and while I do use some of it in full recipes for the freezer I also bag it into 1 lb portions to be used later. Then when I want to make something like Hamburger Stroganoff I use the prepared hamburger but all the other ingredients are fresh. You can also do this with casseroles and make pizza packs (freeze the dough and other ingredients that go with it in a big ziploc and assemble that night). Do not cook the whole thing ahead just the most time consuming part. This will also allow you some flexibility in your OAMC cooking. By doing this I still find that I save time and everyone thinks it is freshly made.
Krisann in TN
It is hard to get away from that "funny" taste in a freezer. Most refrigerators today share air between the refrigerator part & freezer part. Any odors picked up from the refrigerator will be transported to the freezer. Sealing things in the refrigerator, as best you can, will help. If it is a stand alone freezer there are still some things you can do.
One way to cut down on the taste change is to fill the containers as much as possible. The less air space, the better. If the food will allow, add a little water to the container. Casseroles can take a small amount of oil drizzled over the top.
Save the spicier foods for the last couple of weeks. Use hearty soups or stews near the end & re season before serving.
My mother wraps all her fish and meat in bags or plastic wrap, THEN she puts them in a brown paper bag and in the freezer. We don't know why this works, but it works very well.
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