Our Ultimate Guide to Freezing Food

Whether you're a make-ahead meal planner or can't stand to see leftovers go to waste, these tips for freezing food will help keep you (and your freezer) organized.

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Are you making the most out of your freezer? We’ve compiled a collection of freezer tips to help you store food better, prevent waste and make the most of your leftovers. We cover meats, veggies and a handful of foods you may not even realize you can freeze.

Next up: Check out all these easy freezer meals you can make ahead of time.

What to Know Before Freezing Food

Is freezing food bad?

Absolutely not! As long as it’s done properly, freezing food will lock in nutrients and freshness so your items are just as good as the day they went in the freezer.

Does freezing food kill bacteria?

Not exactly. According to the USDA, freezing food renders bacteria and other microbes inactive, thus preserving your food. Once the food is removed from the freezer and starts to thaw, bacteria and other microbes will become active again and you run the risk of foodborne illness if the items are left out between 40 and 140ºF before being washed and/or cooked. Be sure your freezer temperature reaches 0ºF to freeze food safely.

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Which foods freeze well?

While you can technically freeze almost anything, some foods freeze better than others. The top food groups for freezing are:

What’s the best way to freeze food?

This varies a bit by the type of food, but here are some general guidelines on how to freeze food:

  • Keep things cold: Make sure your freezer is 0°F. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer, like this one from LinkDm ($8) for accuracy.
  • Don’t put hot food in the freezer: If cooked, allow food to cool completely. Placing warm food in the freezer can cause your other foods to thaw.
  • Wrap and seal food tightly: Foil, plastic wrap and plastic freezer bags help protect food from freezer burn. Try to remove as much air when wrapping to prevent freezer burn. Or if you’re using food storage containers, make sure you’ve left enough space in the container for liquid to expand as it freezes.
  • Keep food far from the door: Keep foods with a higher risk of foodborne illnesses, like meats, near the back of the freezer, where the temperature is more consistent. Reserve the door, aka the warmest place in your freezer, for items like alcohol or freezer packs.

Plus, follow these tips to prevent freezer burn.

Can you freeze food in Mason jars?

Yes, you can freeze food in Mason jars (or any glass jars) but they require some special care as glass is prone to breaking. Here’s what you need to do to prevent glass containers from cracking in the freezer:

  • Pick the right jar: Choose a clean, thick-walled glass jar with straight sides. Skip freezing repurposed jars, like pickle or relish jars, and jars with walls that are rounded at the top as the curved design limits the amount of space food has to expand.
  • Leave headspace: Ensure that you’re leaving enough headspace for food to expand. While some jars have a freeze line etched into them, we suggest to err on the side of caution and leave at least an inch of headspace. If you’re freezing food for the first time, feel free to leave an inch and a half or two to see how much it expands.
  • Label, label, label: Jot down the contents and the date the food was frozen on the jar. Write this on the lid or keep things organized by using these adorable canning jar labels ($10).
  • Fridge first: Don’t place glass jars directly in the freezer. Glass can shatter if the temperature changes too much too quickly, Place food in the fridge overnight before transferring to the freezer.

Now that you have some of the basics down, let’s get to freezing some food!

How to Freeze Food

Learn how to freeze every type of food. Each of our helpful guides will teach you how to properly store food in the freezer, how long frozen foods last, plus give tips for when you’re ready to cook.

Produce

Meat and Poultry

Baked Goods

Leftovers

Staple Ingredients

 

Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.
Caroline Stanko
As an Associate Digital Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.