Today I was asked what I’d recommend for freezing food, in particular meat and vegetables rather than using cling film (aka glad wrap) or freezer bags.
The simplest response would be that I’d recommend using glass, but when is it ever that simple? So here’s some thoughts and comparisons and I hope it’s helpful.
Before freezing food, there are a couple of things worth establishing:
- How long do you think it will be in the freezer for. (For me, I know usually eat meals in under a month, but veg could be there 2-6 months)
- Will you defrost the whole thing at once or does it need to be portioned out before freezing?
- Will you defrost it or does it usually go straight from the freezer to the microwave?
- How much space do you have in your freezer?
Glass is great for storing food because it is inert and there’s no risk of BPA contamination. When it comes to freezing, ideally you want thicker glass so it’s not subject to too much stress. I freeze a lot of things in jam jars or mason jars- stews, soups, stock, milk and even chopped up vegetables.
One thing to remember is that liquids expand when frozen so you need to not over fill or the glass can shatter. An inch at the top of the container should be plenty. Glass can also shatter if you move it from cold to hot too quickly, so it’s not ideal if you’re wanting to put in the microwave straight from the freezer. And of course, glass breaks so there’s always a risk of dropping the cold, slippy jar when you take it out of the freezer. The other thing with jam jars is that they don’t stack too well and the narrow top isn’t always the easiest to empty so if space is an issue, some containers like these or these make a great solution.
Yes, the lids are plastic but they are reusable so still an improvement over cling film. Apparently silicone is slightly better for the environment than hard plastic, so keep an eye out for that type of lid – but again make sure it’s food grade.
Stainless steel. I don’t have any of these because they are quite pricy and you really need airtight ones for freezing but I have been eyeing them up. The benefits are that they stack well, are light and won’t break if dropped. On the downside, they won’t go into the microwave and you’ll want to be careful taking them out of the freezer because the metal might might stick to your skin.
I freeze a lot of things in the reusable plastic containers, like these sistema ones, that I’ve had for years. When they reach the end of their useful life, I’ll replace them with glass (or maybe it’ll be an excuse to buy the shiny stainless steel ones) but for now they are much better option than single use cling film. It’s worth checking that the container is safe to use in the freezer and BPA free before putting food in them. I found out this week that Tupperware have a lifetime warantee on their products. If plastic containers seem the best option for you, picking a brand that will last may be a good choice. Or there’s the reusing ice cream containers trick too. The benefits of plastic are that you can get a wide range of sizes and shapes, they are lightweight, won’t break if dropped and can be put straight into the microwave from the freezer. The downsides – they are still plastic and even if BPA free, there are still a lot of concerns of other chemicals leeching into food.
Freezer bags are probably just above cling film on my environmental scale as they usually get chucked out after a single use. I used to use a lot of these as they are great for odd shaped things like bread.
I still have some and now I wash and reuse them and will keep doing so until they fall apart. For packed lunches some of these freezable lunch bags might be useful.
Cling Film is something I don’t use at all anymore. For normal use, I’ve replaced it with Beeswax wraps which I love using, but they are not good for meat or freezing as the wax cracks. I don’t know of anything that provides versatility of cling film, but I have found that brown paper or parchment paper will work for a day or so in the freezer. It’s also useful for separating things like baked goods or my bean burgers ( these one are a little burnt but still tastly) or even bits of meat.
And to finish off, just a thought about portioning things up before freezing. I don’t buy sliced bread anymore because it all comes wrapped in plastic, so I make sure to slice bread before freezing. It makes it much easier to grab a few slices for lunch. I’ve never done this because my freezer is too small but I’ve read that if you’re freezing things like peas or berries, if you freeze them on a single layer sheet before putting in a container, they won’t stick as much. Another trick is to freeze liquids in ice cube trays and then transfer to a container. Last week I opened a bottle of white wine because I needed some for a chicken stew but I didn’t really want to drink any of the rest of bottle and it seemed an awful waste. My work colleagues suggested I make ice cubes with the rest if I wanted to use it for cooking. Apparently you can also do this with fresh herbs in olive oil.
And it’s good to write the date on things when you freeze them so you know how long they are good for . As you can see, these spring onions look like they’ve reached their expiry date.
I tend to remember what I’ve put in my wee freezer but if you’ve got a cavernous chest freezer, it might be worth having a list of what goes in and when it went in. I sometimes think once things go in there’s a chance it’ll never come out again!