Freezing Tips 102: Make freezer-friendly dishes, every time!
Busy weeks and little time to cook can be tricky when you want to feed you and your family healthy, home-cooked meals. Making your meals ahead and freezing them is the answer – batch-cook a big chilli on a Sunday, make a little extra soup to freeze the leftovers or make up your pizza bases ahead – to save you time in the long run.
THE DEBRIEF: WHAT CAN OR CAN’T I FREEZE?
When it comes to home-cooked meals, there’s a lot you can freeze. Saucy meals, like soups, stews and curries, freeze well, while pies, tarts and bakes can all be stored in your freezer. Starches, like raw potatoes, pasta and rice are best avoided as their texture is never quite the same once defrosted. There are a few more items to avoid:
Avoid fresh salads. Raw vegetables contain a lot of water and don’t defrost well. Avoid a soggy, appetizing dinner and read more here on how to freeze your vegetables for another day.
Avoid dressings, mayonnaise and other condiments as they tend to separate when frozen.
Avoid cream cheese. Once frozen and defrosted it’s no longer spreadable. Cream cheese works fine when included in a bake or sauce.
Avoid boiled eggs, whether on their own or as part of a dish – in fish pies, for example – as the whites become rubbery and not very tasty!
HERE ARE SOME QUICK FREEZER TIPS BEFORE YOU START:
- Portion out meals into containers or freezer-friendly bags (reuse plastic yoghurt pots or takeaway boxes if you have them) and label with the serving size, date and the contents of each.
- Eat your meals within three months as after that their quality will deteriorate.
- It’s a good idea to defrost your meal before reheating and eating it. Remove it to the fridge about 24 hours before.
- You can also reheat your dinners from frozen by cooking them for longer and making sure they’re piping hot all the way through.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY DINNERS: WHAT CAN I COOK?
Soups, stews, chillies and curries
One-pot meals like these are ideal as you can easily batch-cook them provided you have a big enough saucepan, divide them into portions and throw them into the freezer. Try make a double batch of this Peanut & Coconut Milk Curry.
Best-to-avoid freezer tip: rice can turn mushy once reheated after freezing. It’s best to cook the amount of rice you need when you need it rather than freezing it ahead.
Sauces & pestos
Turn a glut of summer tomatoes into a pasta sauce or blend a bunch of wilting herbs into a pesto to freeze and toss through a bowl of spaghetti when you need it the most.
Best-to-avoid freezer tip: Like rice, pasta can turn mushy once reheated after freezing. We recommend cooking the amount of pasta you need when you need it, then tossing through your defrosted pasta sauce.
Reduce the temptation to order in takeaway and freeze pizza bases to finish off last minute. Make your basic dough as you usually would, divide and roll it out into rounds and stack them between greased layers of greaseproof paper before wrapping the lot in a bag before freezing. Load them up with your favourite toppings and cook them from frozen until golden and cooked through.
Pies, tarts & pastry
Freeze homemade tart cases to fill and bake from frozen – having tart cases ready and waiting to go is a great way to use up whatever’s going in your fridge. Alternatively, tarts freeze well too. Try this Courgette & Smoked Salmon Tart or this Caramelised Red Onion Tarte Tatin.
For a traditional pie, make your filling ahead and freeze it in batches alongside a portion of pastry. Once ready to cook, defrost both the pie filling and pastry, transfer to a pie dish, roll and cover with the pastry and cook as usual.
Lasagnes & bakes
Mac n cheese, lasagnes or veggie bakes are easy to portion out into containers and they freeze well. While you can totally freeze your pasta bakes once cooked, for best results freeze them after assembly and before baking – that way you can ensure the pasta doesn’t overcook too much.
Make up your burger patties, arrange them on a tray and pop in the freezer for an hour or so. Once frozen, you can pile them into a freezer-safe bag. Defrost them in the fridge before pan-frying or baking as per the recipe instructions.
Fish stews, casseroles, pies or fish cakes all freeze well. The only issue is that fish is delicate and can dry out easily so ensure when reheating that you do so until piping hot but don’t overcook it. Fish pies are a family favourite; when freezing, portion out the filling into your containers and top each with mash – just leave out the boiled eggs as they become rubbery when defrosted.