Freezing and defrosting food are something everyone should know how to do, whether you’re a rookie in the kitchen or a domestic goddess. However, knowing how to freeze food correctly, how long freezing and defrosting should be, and so on isn’t always straightforward.
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Here’s how to get started with freezing and defrosting
Shelf life of frozen foods
Frozen foods have a limited shelf life. Just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they can be eaten for years.
Here are the main food families and their shelf life in the freezer:
Fruits and vegetables: about 1 year
Chicken in pieces (thighs, fillet) uncooked: 6 months
Pork, lamb or veal: 6 to 8 months
Beef, game and poultry: 8 months
Ground meat: 2 to 3 months
Filleted fish and shellfish: 3 to 4 months
Cooked meals (stews, soups): 3 to 4 months
Bread and baguette: 1 month
Cake batter, pancake batter, pastries: 2 months
Cake: 3 months
Grated cheese and butter: 3 months
What happens during refreezing?
It is not recommended to refreeze food because of the number of bacteria that multiplies in this case.
Since freezing is not immediate, since the dish must first cool down, bacteria still have time to proliferate for a few hours before the food is sufficiently cooled to limit their growth.
The principle of freezing and defrosting
Food contains a number of bacteria that multiply over time. Freezing slows the proliferation of bacteria, but does not completely stop it. During defrosting, the bacteria wake up and multiply even more than if the food had not been frozen. This is why refreezing and then defrosting food is very dangerous: it is generally very contaminated, with an increased risk of poisoning.
Tips for successful freezing
Just like defrosting, certain rules must be observed when freezing:
– Place the food in airtight bags or containers and stick a label on it indicating the contents and the date of freezing. In this way, you will no longer wonder when you discover a Tupperware at the bottom of your freezer what it can be and especially when it dates…
– Wait until the food has completely cooled before freezing it.
– Never refreeze a thawed product, unless it has been annealed for a long time.
– Do not freeze anything that cannot be frozen or does not freeze well, such as raw eggs, red fruits, cheese, etc. – If you freeze liquids such as pancake batter for example, do not fill to the brim and avoid glass containers: there is a risk of bursting.
How to defrost a meal
Defrosting a dish is not done anyhow and requires some precautions.
If frozen prepared meals can be reheated in the oven or microwave right out of the freezer, this is not the case for homemade meals that have been frozen. When they come out of the freezer, they should be placed in the coldest area of the refrigerator to avoid thawing at room temperature, which favors the development of bacteria. Meats and vegetables can be cooked without defrosting. However, the sudden temperature difference will deplete them of nutrients, as vitamins do not tolerate thermal shocks well.
Foods that can be re-frozen
Some foods can be refrozen more easily than others, such as: vegetables, uncooked fruit pies, cakes and bread. However, again to avoid the proliferation of bacteria, it is recommended to avoid refreezing foods that have been frozen, even if they tolerate refreezing better.
Refreeze thawed meat
It is absolutely necessary to avoid refreezing thawed meat because the risk of poisoning is great.
The only way to refreeze meat that has already thawed is to recook it at a high temperature in the oven, in a frying pan, or in a simmer, but not in the microwave. However, the taste qualities will not be there. Rather than cooking and annealing to be able to freeze, it is therefore better to try to aim just at the level of the quantities.
Precautions to take with ice
Tubs and other tubs of ice cream are often taken out of the freezer and put back when the ice has already started to melt. However, ice cream, being made from milk or cream, or even eggs, should not be defrosted constantly. It is less serious for the sorbet which consists only of water and fruit.
It is therefore best to put the ice cream in ramekins and put it back in the freezer immediately before serving, this way it will not have time to thaw and there will be no health risk.
What to do if the freezer has broken down?
In the event of a breakdown, if there is not much in the freezer, it is not a disaster, but if it is a case it’s full, then there is a big problem.
First, check the thawing state of the food: is the ice cream melted? Is the core of the food still frozen? Are only the edges defrosted?
If in doubt, best to throw away. If the food has barely had time to thaw, only meat and fish should be thrown away and other foods should be cooked for a long time and at a high temperature during their preparation.
Precautions to take while shopping
If you buy frozen products when shopping, be sure to take them last, just before going to the checkout to break the cold chain as little as possible. Take an insulated bag with you to transport your frozen products during the journey.
You can also opt for the drive circuit, the products will thus spend a minimum of time outside the freezers (no queue at the checkout, shortened loading time, etc.)
In case of hot weather, it is best to take a cooler, even if the journey to your home is not very long.
Freezing and defrosting, refreezing… The precautions for use are numerous and sometimes contradict each other to such an extent that the consumer no longer knows very well what hygiene rules to observe. The point on what to freeze or not, refreeze or not and on when and how are we freezing and defrosting.