The use of temperatures of -18°C or colder to store food means that the food can be kept for longer periods than when refrigeration temperatures are used. This is because the growth of bacteria, moulds and yeasts are stopped, and microbial chemical and physical reactions are severely restricted at very low temperatures.
Frozen food care
For best results:
- Choose only high quality foods that freeze well.
- Store at -18°C or colder. Take care to maintain this low storage temperature, eg try to avoid opening the freezer door unnecessarily. If your ice cream is soft you are running your freezer too warm.
- Leave space at the top of containers, glass jars or plastic bags containing liquids or semi-solid foods as they expand during freezing. Usually 20 – 50mm head space is recommended. Seal well. Ideally, remove all the air from the package after food is frozen.
- Packages or containers of solid foods should have the air removed from them and be sealed tightly before freezing.
- Freeze immediately and as quickly as possible. Freeze only small quantities of food at any one time. For best results we recommend that only 1kg of food be frozen per 25L freezer capacity. (About 3kg in small freezers and 4kg in larger freezers).
- Do not pile frozen food around the fan cover. This can prevent adequate air circulation.
- Thaw foods preferably in a refrigerator, or using a microwave oven or multifunction oven.
- Keep a constant turnover of food. Use older items of food first. Do not exceed recommended storage times.
- Use good quality freezer proof packaging to maintain food quality.
- If food is only covered in plastic film place inside a freezer-proof plastic bag.
Recommended freezer storage times
These times should not be exceeded.
|Months||Type of Food Stored|
|1||Bacon, casseroles, milk|
|2||Bread, ice cream, sausages, pies — (meat and fruit), prepared shellfish, oily fish|
|3||Non-oily fish, shellfish, pizza, scones and muffins|
|4||Ham, cakes, biscuits, beef and lamb chops, poultry pieces|
|6||Butter, vegetables (blanched), eggs whole and yolks, cooked crayfish, minced meat (raw), pork (raw)|
|12||Fruit (dry or in syrup), egg whites, beef (raw), whole chicken, lamb (raw), fruit cakes|
Meat, poultry and game
- Do not try to freeze more than 1kg meat per 25L freezer capacity. Meat must be frozen quickly in order to maintain its texture.
- Do not stuff poultry before freezing.
- Red meat can be cooked from frozen, or from the partly or completely thawed states.
Remember to allow extra cooking time if cooking from frozen.
- Always thaw poultry completely before cooking.
- Fish is best frozen commercially. If, however, you do want to freeze fish at home, make sure the fish is very fresh and of high quality.
- Clean, scale and preferably leave whole. All fish should be wrapped in two layers of packaging as depending on the type of fish, odours and flavours can be readily transferred either to or from it. Seal well.
- For best results, cook from either the frozen or partly thawed state.
- Most vegetables freeze well, although ‘salad’ vegetables lose their crispness. Other vegetables, eg celery, onion and tomatoes, should only be used in cooked dished as they soften on freezing.
- Freeze only high quality, mature, ready-to-eat vegetables.
- Sort and discard any that are damaged.
- It is necessary to blanch most raw vegetables prior to freezing.
- Blanching involves a short cooking period during which vegetable enzymes are destroyed. If these enzymes are not destroyed they cause undesirable physical and chemical changes during freezer storage.
- Vegetables can be blanched in boiling water, steam or in a microwave oven. If using boiling water, boil vegetables for 2 – 4 minutes and cool quickly.
- In general frozen vegetables are best cooked from their frozen state.
Prepared and cooked foods
- Most cooked foods can be frozen but it is not recommended to freeze the following:
- Cooked egg white, custards, cream fillings and milk puddings, gelatine or jelly-like dishes, mayonnaise and similar salad dressings, meringue toppings. These tend to separate on thawing.
- Choose high quality, mature, and ready-to-eat fruit. Preferably select varieties recommended for freezing.
- Avoid unripe and over-ripe fruit.
- The way fruit is packed depends on how it is to be used. Fruits packed in syrup are ideal for desserts, whereas fruits packed without sugar are better used for cooking. Most fruits can be stored for 8 – 12 months.