Here is a quick primer on the essential tools you need, tricks and strategies for making the most of your refrigerator and freezer, and reheating food to get the best tasting results.
The Freezer Four-step: Chill. Pack. Label. Stack.
CHILLING FOOD BEFORE FREEZING IT helps prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface. Place cooked food in the refrigerator as soon as possible so it cools quickly. (You do not have to let it cool at room temperature and should definitely not let food sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours.) Once the food is chilled, freeze it quickly by packing it in small quantities, and making sure your freezer is at 0°F or colder. If your freezer has a “quick-freeze” setting, use it.
TO PREVENT FREEZER-BURN AND OFF tastes from developing, be sure your food is as well-sealed and airtight as possible. If you are using containers with lids, “burp” them to remove excess air. Double wrap individual food items, first in plastic or foil, then in sealable plastic bags with the air squeezed out of them. Place soups and stews in doubled plastic freezer bags, pressing the air out before sealing.
To leave both of your hands free for scooping when transferring food into plastic bags, place the bag into a tall glass or pitcher, fitting the opening of the bag over the mouth of the vessel to hold the bag open in place.
Although sometimes you have to tear a bag to remove the frozen food, most times a bag will be reusable, so wash, dry, and reuse whenever possible.
LABEL EACH BAG OR DISH with exactly what is inside and the date. While frozen foods remain safe indefinitely, their taste and texture become compromised over time. The freezer storage times suggested in this book are for optimal quality.
LAYING BAGS OF LIQUIDY FOODS flat to freeze allows you to stack them like books once frozen, which optimizes the space you have. Freeze them unstacked so they freeze quickly, then stack them later.