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The big freeze: Top tips for frozen food

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Although many people may argue that the winter weather is cold enough to simply leave food outside to freeze, the truth is that there remains a certain amount of guesswork when it comes to frozen goods.

Things like ice cream, frozen peas and ice cubes that are frozen when purchased are easy enough to tackle, but there is a major grey area around what you can and cannot freeze, when you should do it, and how long it can last in the freezer.

As such, we have defrosted the uncertainty around frozen food and put together a guide showing you how to make the best use of your freezer.

What not to freeze

Just like microwaves, freezers are not suitable for every food, and there is a common theme when it comes to the types you should avoid subjecting to sub-zero temperatures.

Raw eggs that are still in their shells should not be frozen as they can expand and crack, while hard-boiled eggs will go rubbery and egg-based sauces such as mayonnaise will separate and curdle.

Many dairy products such as plain yogurt are unsuitable, as is low-fat cream cheese, cottage cheese and single cream, which can all turn watery.

Some salad items such as such as lettuce and cucumber, which have high water content, will simply turn to mush in the freezer, while bean sprouts and radishes will also suffer the same fate and soft herbs such as parsley, basil and chives are prone to turning brown when frozen.

Everyday items

There are several everyday ingredients that are perfect for freezing, which can help to solve the problem of taking advantage of a special offer at a supermarket but not being able to eat the food you have purchased before the expiry date.

As a general rule, butter and margarine can be frozen for three months without compromising their taste, while grated cheese is good for around four months.

Milk can be frozen for four to five weeks before being defrosted - just be aware that it may take on a slightly more yellow appearance.

Most types of bread can be frozen for up to three months, with the exception of crusty French bread, while sliced bread has the added benefit of being toastable straight from the freezer, to save on defrosting.

Cook from frozen

Just like sliced bread, several foods can be cooked straight from frozen, which saves on the defrosting process - something that can take several hours for a joint of meat, for example.

Fish is one meat that does lend itself to cooking from frozen due to its relative lack of density; something that also applies to burgers, sausages and some other seafood such as prawns.

Pre-made, liquid-based food such as soups, casseroles and stews can also be cooked straight from frozen, providing they are thoroughly warmed through to ensure the meat content is safe for consumption.

General tips

There are many other ways to ensure you get the most out of your freezer, one of which is to cool foods down sufficiently before you freeze them; this ensures the freezer itself does not warm up inside and have to work doubly hard to regulate the temperature.

Filling up the freezer can also help to save money on electricity, as there is less room for the air to circulate; if you do have gaps, consider filling empty bottles with tap water and plugging the spaces between the food parcels and boxes.

Wrapping food properly is also more important than you think, as it can ensure that no food is exposed directly to the cold air and suffer frostbite - seriously - while labelling clearly will help you to determine when it was frozen in a few months’ time and prevent you eating food past its prime.