A complete guide to freezing food: What you can and can’t put in the freezer

You can freeze more foods than you might think

Rachel Hosie
Friday 29 July 2022 21:29 BST
Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan's advice to freeze nuts

Roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption across the world is wasted every year.

This equates to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food being thrown away - which is a cost to the environment and our bank accounts.

But one incredibly helpful tool in the crusade against food waste is the freezer.

However, many of us aren’t sure what the rules are when it comes to freezing food.

Which foods are safe to freeze? How long can you keep something in the freezer for? Should you freeze food when raw or cooked?

Speaking on Australia's Today show, Dr Joanna McMillan dispelled some of the myths around freezing foods and revealed which ingredients many of us don't know can be safely frozen, such as eggs and herbs.

“Freezing is a really amazing way of preserving our food because you don't have to use chemical preservatives,” Dr McMillan said.

“It’s actually one of the oldest means of preserving foods [...] I think we under-utilise the freezer in today’s age where we think everything that’s fresh is better for us and it’s actually not the truth.”

However it's worth bearing in mind that freezing doesn't completely remove bacteria, so if something is on the verge of going bad, it may be too late to pop it in the freezer.

There are simple guidelines you can follow to help you reduce your food waste, make your money go further and keep food fresher longer.

Foods you can freeze:

  • Cooked pasta
  • Cooked rice
  • Nuts (many people don’t realise nuts can go rancid due to the high levels of fat they contain)
  • Flour - you can use it directly from the freezer
  • Butter
  • Grated cheese
  • Bananas, peeled
  • Bread, in slices, as loaves or breadcrumbs
  • Herbs 
  • Stock 
  • Wine 
  • Eggs, cracked into small containers
  • Meat, both raw and cooked

Foods you shouldn’t freeze:

  • Milk - it becomes lumpy once thawed (but this can be OK for cooking)
  • Deep-fried food - after defrosting, the crispy coating will turn to mush
  • Sour cream - again, it can be alright for cooking but will separate after freezing
  • Dishes with crumb toppings - you’ll lose the crispness and it’ll go soggy.

Freezing tips:

  • Let all food reach room temperature before freezing.
  • Make the most of your ice cube tray - Dr McMillan suggests blending herbs with water or olive oil and freezing in a tray, wine can also be frozen as ice cubes which you can use to keep your drink cool without diluting it or pop it into your cooking, and stock can also be frozen in a tray.
Freeze herbs, stocks and wine in ice cube trays
  • Make sure everything is frozen in a sealable container or bag.
  • Meat in particular needs to be properly wrapped.
  • Be aware that anything that has a high water content, like lettuce, won’t be exactly the same after being frozen and then defrosted.
  • Try to freeze everything when at its freshest.
  • Defrost meat thoroughly before cooking, but other items such as bread for toasting can be cooked straight from the freezer.
  • Never refreeze raw meat that has been frozen and then thawed - you can, however, freeze cooked meat that was frozen when raw.
  • Make sure the freezer isn’t packed so full that air can’t circulate.

How long can you keep food in the freezer?

As a general rule, nothing should be kept in the freezer for longer than nine months to a year, but there is variation amongst different food items.

Here’s the maximum of time you can keep certain foods frozen before thawing:

  • Poultry, whole: a year
  • Steak: a year
  • Blanched vegetables: a year
  • Fruit in syrup: a year
  • White fish: eight months
  • Open packs of frozen fruit: eight months
  • Unsalted butter: eight months
  • Fruit juice: six months
  • Lamb/pork/beef/chicken/turkey/duck/goose/venison/rabbit: six months
  • Bread: six months
  • Cakes: six months
  • Stocks: six months
  • Oily fish: four months
  • Pastries: four months
  • Salted butter: four months
  • Ice cream: four months
  • Sliced bacon: three months
  • Soups and sauces: three months
  • Bread dough: three months

Make the most of your freezer to make your life easier - and help save the planet at the same time.

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