Safety Precautions for freezing food:
It may seem like common sense, but many people don’t follow the proper way to safely freeze or reheat their food. Cooking in bulk and freezing the uneaten portions is a great way to ensure your family can have a home-cooked, healthy meal every night of the week. BUT, you may be inviting harmful bacteria into your food if you don’t take some simple precautions!
- After you have cooked a meal – a casserole, a soup, a large piece of meat – that food should not be left out any longer than 30 minutes before freezing.
- Make sure the freezer-safe containers you are using are small and shallow, which allows for a quicker freezing process.
- Make sure there is adequate air flow in your freezer, which allows everything to freeze properly.
- If you are freezing a casserole or any sort of container that has empty space between the food and the lid, fill the space with crumpled wax paper – this will cut down on the ice crystals that form on the food’s surface.
- Do NOT freeze any tomato based dish in an aluminum pan or cover with aluminum foil – the aluminum can leech into your dish.
- Make sure you label your food with name and date frozen – that will ensure that you are not allowing the food to stay in your freezer too long, which can sacrifice quality of taste and the nutrients in the food as well.
Sounds pretty easy on that end! There are also several steps you should take to thaw out and reheat your food. The number one rule of thawing out food is NEVER to defrost perishables outside or on the counter! This can also lead to unwanted bacteria that can make you very sick. An example of a perishable is a raw meat, anything with cooked meat in it (such as a casserole), and even fruits and vegetables.
To safely begin the thawing/reheating process:
- Try to plan ahead and pull your casserole or meat out of the freezer 24-48 hours ahead of time and place in the refrigerator. This is by far the safest way to defrost both cooked and raw frozen food.
- If that time frame is not an option for you, you can do what is called a fast thaw – place the food in a sealable plastic bag and place in a sink full of cool water, changing the water every 30 minutes until the food is thawed.
- Once the food is thawed, it is able to be reheated in the microwave – make sure to remove any wrapping you may have used, because the chemicals in the wrapping can be released into your food if heated.
- When microwaving, make sure to stir outside in to encourage the dish to heat evenly.
- If you prefer to use an oven to defrost AND reheat your food, you can set the oven to 300-350 degrees for approximately 1 1/2 times the amount of time it took you to cook the dish in the first place. So, if your casserole originally took 1 hour to cook, set the oven to bake for an hour and a half.
Following these easy steps for freezing and reheating food will allow you to feed your family your home-cooked meals every day of the week!