One of the most common questions I hear from people who are interested in freezer-meal cooking is: "How do I know what will freeze well, and what won't?"
If you're unsure of how well something will freeze, freeze a single serving when you prepare the dish for a regular family meal. This way you can check on how well the item holds up to freezing and reheating.
The following lists should give you a good start at identifying potential freezing problems with various food items.
DON'T FREEZE WELL:
--Greasy foods (they just become greasier)
--Cake icings made with egg whites
--Cream fillings and soft frostings
--Pies made with custard or cream fillings
--Fried foods (they tend to lose their crispness and become soggy)
--Fruit jelly on sandwiches may soak into the bread
--Soft cheese, such as cream cheese (can become watery)
--Mayonnaise (it separates; use salad dressing instead)
--Sour cream (it becomes thin and watery)
--Potatoes cooked in soups and stews (they become mushy and may darken. If using potatoes, cook until barely soft and still firm; then freeze quickly.)
CHANGE DURING FREEZING:
--Gravies and other fat-based sauces may separate and need to be Recombined by stirring or processing in the blender
--Thickened sauces may need thinning after freezing; thin with broth or milk
--Seasonings such as onions, herbs and flavorings used in recipes can change during freezing. These are best added during reheating to obtain accurate flavors
--Vegetables, pastas and grains used in cooked recipes usually are softer after freezing and reheating (undercook before freezing, or add when dish is reheated)
--Heavy cream can be frozen if used for cooking, but will not whip
--Some yogurts may suffer texture changes
--Raw vegetables lose their crispness, but can be used for cooking, stews, etc.
--Many cheeses change texture in the freezer. Most hard cheeses turn crumbly (which makes them okay for grating, but not for slicing).
Deborah Taylor-Hough (wife and mother of three) is the author of the bestselling book, 'Frozen Assets: How to cook for a day and eat for a month,' and the new book, 'Frugal Living For Dummies(r)' (Wiley, 2003). www.simplemom.com
Copyright Deborah Taylor-Hough Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Brian Holm