Pams Prep Kitchen: Our Guide to Freezing Food
Whether you’re an experienced everyday foodie, beginner, or simply a home-cook looking for handy hacks, the freezer is an amazing way to make the most of your ingredients, save time and reduce food waste.
Making the most out of your freezer is a great way to limit your waste, keeping things fresher and ultimately stored better, for longer. Just make sure you’re aware of the temperature of your fridge in order to maintain proper food safe regulations - most New Zealand freezers should sit at around -18°C.
Freezing is the most convenient way to store your food, making life easier for future you. A great tip to stay on top of your freezer is keeping a basic inventory of the meals you’ve got stored away, including how to defrost/reheat. Great for a busy whānau, simply keeping a list on the side of the fridge can help family members get the gist of its contents, as well as make sure you don’t forget about your frozen goodies and order takeaways instead!
Here are a few of our favourite ways to freeze food - and get the most out of our favourite meals and ingredients.
Utilise your ice tray!
The humble ice tray is useful for so much more than just freezing ice. They’re the perfect storage for bite-sized goodies and quick to defrost cooking additions. Simply pop the frozen contents out when they’re set and keep in zip-lock bags in your freezer for easy access!
A great way to store any abundance of herbs is by freezing them submerged in olive oil in your ice cube tray. Simply chop your herbs into small pieces, pop them in the trays and fill up with the oil. Once set, keep these cubes on hand as flavour bombs to add to your meals and speed up dinner prep.
When in season, lemons are cheap and perfect for adding zing to all kinds of dishes. Squeeze your excess lemon juice into ice-cube trays that can be easily be popped out and defrosted. Feel free to even add in some finely grated lemon zest for an extra pop of flavour. Use in your next cake recipe, in zesty salad dressings, or in our delicious Lemon Meringue Pie! We also love adding some honey into the juice before freezing to then pop in hot water for a delicious lemon honey drink!
Stock is a great way to boost flavour in your meals. From soups to curries, stock is always a helpful addition in the kitchen. However, when we make it ourselves, or open a carton and don’t use it all at once, we’re unsure what to do with the leftovers. Try freezing it in ice-cube trays for easy access and quick defrosting! No mess, no fuss.
Coconut Milk & Cream
Coconut milk & cream are both versatile and delicious – useful for curries, soups, smoothies and even iced coffee! However, opening a new tin can be frustrating when you don’t have use for it all at once. Simply divide the leftover milk into the ice-cube tray and freeze it. Pop a cube or two in your drinks and dishes to quickly defrost and add delicious creaminess.
Freeze Your Aromatics
Having fresh aromatics on hand when cooking is always helpful to take the flavour up a notch. To avoid mouldy veggies and herbs going bad in your veggie drawer, pop them in the freezer to extend their use-by date and keep them fresh and flavourful.
Freezing your ginger whole is great for when you only need a knob or two off of a hand. This can be grated frozen straight into curries, soups or hot drinks! Alternatively, freeze your peeled ginger in sliced discs in a zip-lock bag for easy defrosting, or dice from frozen. To remove the ginger skin, simply scratch down the sides of it with a spoon – this removes the brittle outside. Just make sure there isn’t too much moisture happening in your freezing process, otherwise the slices will stick together in the bag.
Freezing spring onions and lemongrass
Spring onions freeze well due to their water content, so storing an abundance of them in your freezer is a great way to always have some on hand. The perfect addition to many a meal, or great as a garnish, these gems can be frozen whole, or diced and stored in zip-lock bags. Lemongrass is delicious in so many recipes, and often hard to come by in New Zealand supermarkets, so grab it in bulk when you can! Simply freeze and defrost it whole by running it under warm water before chopping, or keep diced in a bag. Even grate it straight from frozen! Remember to bash the lemongrass stalks against the bench with the back of your knife to release the flavour if cooking whole. We love using it in our Lemongrass Chicken Skewers
For extra heat and spice, chillies give the perfect pop! Instead of storing on the windowsill or in your fruit bowl, try keeping your chillies in the freezer to stunt them going bad. They freeze great whole, ready to defrost and slice into your dish. Or, simply grate your chilli on the smallest section of your microplane to add a finer flavour profile to your dishes.
Freezing fresh herbs
Freezing your herbs is great for when they’re on special at your local supermarket, or when they’re about to go to flower too soon in your garden. Simply freeze them whole on the stem in an airtight container, or use our ice cube tray hack!
Freezing Ahead of Time and Defrosting
Prepping your meals ahead of time can make or break a busy day. Whether you’re planning ahead for your kid's lunchboxes, or simply wanting to keep your leftovers fresh - your freezer is your best friend. Freezing meals is a delay of any spoilage, allowing for the quality to be maintained months after cooking. Our favourite cooked meals to freeze are hearty soups, lasagne or pasta bakes, homemade pies and curries. There’s nothing quite like coming home from a long day at work to a perfectly defrosted prepped meal waiting for you in your fridge!
When it comes to proper defrosting, there are a few guidelines to make sure you’re maintaining proper safety and hygiene – bacteria is never welcome! It’s best to plan ahead and defrost your items in the fridge where they can stay at a consistent temperature.
Smaller items such as mince or chicken pieces tend to take a full day to thaw in the fridge, while bigger items like whole chickens could take up to 24 hours. For quicker defrosting, try submerging your airtight items in cold water for a few hours, simply changing the water every 30 minutes to maintain a constant temperature.
Using the microwave as a method of thawing should only be used in a pinch, and the food should be cooked immediately post defrost. Any form of cooked food should be eaten within 24 hours of thawing, and to be reheated only once!
Some of our favourite Pams recipes that are just as good from frozen:
- Mac & Cheese Cups – freeze in a container post-bake and let de-frost before eating.
- Butter Chicken Pies – freeze pre-cooking and bake from frozen when ready.
- Vege Sausage Rolls – freeze in a log pre-cooking and simply thaw and slice before baking (add on an extra 5 minutes in the oven when cooking from frozen).
- Mini Egg Bundles – freeze in an airtight container and wrap in a damp paper towel to microwave in 30 seconds intervals.
- Pea and Halloumi Fritters – freeze them stacked in baking paper and simply reheat the next day for an easy breakfast.
- Cheese Rolls – freeze the uncooked rolls and thaw before cooking.
These recipes are family-friendly and easy to whip up to be munched on over the next few weeks, or kept for up to 3 months! Even things such as chocolate chip cookie dough can easily be frozen. Simply wrap the dough in a rolled log form in baking paper, and slice when you’re ready for freshly baked biscuits! This is a great tip when you only want a few baked goodies at a time.
Heartier recipes such as our Vegan Cottage Pie, Gluten Free Apple Crumble, Mexican Beans and Broccoli Lasagne are perfect for making ahead of time and defrosting in the fridge during the day. They’re also great to gift a friend or family member that needs a bit of extra help with dinners!
Perfect for meal prep, this toasted sandwich hack will change your lunch game. Simply use a whole loaf of bread to whip up a load of sandwiches with your family’s favourite combos, such as ham, cheese and onion, and wrap them in baking paper.
Stack them back into the bread bag they came in and store in the freezer for easy access! No need to even unwrap them, just pop it in the toastie press and let it do all of the defrosting and cooking. This Pams Prep Kitchen tip is especially great if your office has a toastie machine! Prepping a weeks-worth of sandwiches and freezing them makes for one less thing to think about!
Love Food, Hate Waste
If the contents of your fruit bowl and veggie drawer are coming to their last legs, remember to utilise your freezer! Brown, spotty bananas can be saved by chopping them up and keeping them frozen in a zip-lock bag – easy to chuck in smoothies!
Same goes for wilting spinach, slightly squishy berries or even bruised apples. Simply wash, dry off and get freezing. A fun way to make mornings easier is by separating your favourite fruit and veggies into their own individual smoothie bags that you can blend straight from the bag with some yoghurt and milk. Try out this Morning Smoothie Bowl that can be adapted to suit whatever ingredients you’ve got!
Instead of binning your veggie scraps after cooking dinner, why not pop them in a freezer bag that can be topped up every day and made into delicious vegetable stock at the end of the week? This is a great way to limit your food waste as well as being budget-friendly and healthy. Carrot tops, onion peels, broccoli stems – they’re all goodness that boosts a broth and gives added nutrients!