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Polly and I are hard at work on our first e-book that will be filled with all our favorite, well-tested, and updated freezer meal recipes. In preparation, I’ve been doing a little research, including exactly what the USDA has to say about the safety of freezer cooking.
I have to admit…I was surprised by some of the information I found, even though I’ve been in a Freezer Club for years! So, I thought it might be helpful and fun to offer you a quick quiz. Let us know how you do!
1. Which food items DO NOT freeze safely?
c. canned food
2. True or False? Frozen food can remain safely frozen indefinitely.
3. True or False? Freezing destroys bacteria and parasites.
4. True or False? The freezing process itself does not destroy nutrients.
5. True or False? It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its original packaging.
6. Can you name the only three safe methods for thawing frozen food?
7. True or False? Once a food has been frozen and thawed, you cannot freeze it again.
8. How much longer does it take to cook raw or cooked meat, poultry or casseroles from a frozen state than from their fresh state?
a. twice as long
b. two times longer
c. one and a half times longer
Ready to see how you did???
1. a. eggs and c. canned food. This is a bit of a trick question. You can freeze almost any food. Freezing safely is the key here. While mayonnaise does not freeze and thaw well (you’ll lose some of the quality), it is safe to freeze it. However, you cannot safely freeze canned food (still in the can) or eggs in shells.
2. True. The USDA site says, “Food stored constantly at 0 °F will always be safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage.” See this Freezer Storage Chart for freezing length recommendations.
3. False. The USDA sites says, “Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness.” Handle all frozen foods just as you would fresh food and cook thoroughly, using this Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart as a guide.
4. True. The USDA site says, “In meat and poultry products, there is little change in nutrient value during freezer storage.”
5. True. The USDA site says, “…however this type of wrap is permeable to air and quality may diminish over time. For prolonged storage, overwrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use; merely overwrap or rewrap it.”
6. In the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. The USDA site says, “It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Small items may defrost overnight; most foods require a day or two…For faster thawing, place food in a leak proof plastic bag and immerse it in cold water…After thawing, cook immediately. When microwave-defrosting food, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.”
7. False. The USDA site states, “Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, however there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.”
8. c. One and a half times longer. The USDA site states, “Raw or cooked meat, poultry or casseroles can be cooked or reheated from the frozen state. However, it will take approximately one and a half times as long to cook.”