Dear Jenny, in a lot of your food posts you mention that you “flash freeze” things. What exactly does that mean and how do you do it?
— Frozen in Time
Yes, I do talk about flash freezing all the time! So much that I think people are starting to roll their eyes when I say it.
It’s the answer to virtually all of the world’s problems.
Maybe that’s going a little too far, but it’s certainly been the answer to many, many of my clumpy-freezer-food issues!
The term flash freeze is what it sounds like: Freezing items as quickly as possible. The faster you freeze an item, the better it retains its quality. The big bonus, and why I flash freeze darn near everything, is that when you freeze items separately they stay separate even after you throw them all into a bag or container together. Leftover pizza? Flash freeze the slices and then throw them all in a freezer bag. Pull out each slice as you want it, rather than trying to thaw out a lump-o-pizza. Have an abundance of berries? Flash freeze them, put them in a container or bag, and then just pour out what you need.
Commercial kitchens and food producers use specialized equipment called blast freezers* to blow super-cooled air around the food, allowing it to freeze very quickly. They are insanely expensive and even the “counter-top” models take up a lot of room. I think it would be super-duper cool to have one but I definitely don’t have the space or money for an energy hungry piece of equipment that serves only one purpose.
But you don’t need one.
You can flash freeze just about anything in your own home kitchen with your good ol’ freezer.
Are you ready for the complicated and time-consuming procedure?
- Put a piece of parchment or wax paper on a cookie sheet and spread the items you want to flash freeze out on the cookie sheet
- If you are freezing individual items, try not to let them touch each other
- If you are freezing something like rice or cooked ground beef, spread it into as thin a layer as space allows
- Put the cookie sheet in the freezer and leave it for a couple of hours
- Transfer your frozen items to the container of your choice, being sure not to let them thaw
The hardest part is not forgetting that you have stuff in the freezer. Not that I’ve ever put pancakes in there and only remembered two days later. No, I have most certainly not done that (although if you throw them in the toaster oven and then put plenty of peanut butter and maple syrup on them, you’ll hardly notice the freezer burn).
You can flash freeze damn near anything.
This is just a short list of the things I have frozen this way:
- chopped onions
- chicken pieces
- An abundance of vegetables you got for a great deal at the farmer’s market
- bread slices
- fajita veggies
- whole tomatoes (for use in stews and soups)
- banana slices
- veggie scraps for broth
- slices of pizza
- slices of cake
- cooked ground beef
- liquids, like broth (see instructions below)
I make my own chicken broth and used to freeze it in 2 or 4-cup portions in freezer containers. Thawing out that much is a bit of a bear when you have only realized at the last second that you need it. And while I do generally want two cups or more for a recipe, there are times when half a cup will do. The solution bonked me on the head one day:
- Measure out 1 cup of broth/liquid.
- Pour it into ice cube trays. Make a note of how many cubes = 1 cup.
- Freeze the liquid and then put the frozen cubes into baggies or containers.
- Write on the bag (or on a reference note that you keep taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet) how many cubes = 1 cup.
Voilà! Now you can dump out just the number of cubes needed for your recipe, and it will thaw out in a snap.
But I don’t have enough space to do this!
If you only have an over-stuffed fridge freezer, this can be a challenge. My recommendation is to rearrange as best you can so that you can have some relatively flat surface (on top of everything else is fine) for your cookie sheet. If you don’t have room for a cookie sheet you can certainly use something smaller, but of course the amount you can freeze at once will decrease.
If you have a stand-alone deep freeze (which I HIGHLY recommend!) it’s much easier. I have a vertical freezer that includes a “pizza shelf”. The shelf is in the upper third of the freezer, just below the top shelf, and has holes, which allows the air to circulate more and freeze items more quickly. Mine is just the perfect size to hold two cookie sheets at a time.
Do you flash freeze foods? Do you use the process with things I didn’t list?