Batch cooking tips and getting the most out of your freezer
Top tips for batch cooking and how to store foods in your freezer.
When cooking up a storm or a baking bonanza, you can also freeze a stash of delicious meals to defrost later.
If you’ve got some spare time on your hands, cooking a big batch of meals and freezing them can save time in the kitchen later and help reduce food wastage. Here are our tips for batch cooking and how to get the best from your freezer.
How to be a batch cooking boss
Choose the right dishes and recipes
Some dishes freeze and reheat better than others. When you’re selecting recipes, look for dishes that can be easily re-heated such as:
- pies and stews
- saucy pasta dishes
Store food in airtight containers or freezer bags
Storing portions of stews or casseroles in plastic or reusable freezer bags saves on space.
When freezing, place a piece of baking paper on top of the food or between portions. This helps prevent freezer burn (those frosty ice crystals that form on food), which can affect the colour, taste and texture of your dish when it's reheated.
Freeze now, bake later
Uncooked dough and pastries (such as pizza dough or pie shells) are great to freeze and add fillings to later.
Cooked cakes and muffins can also be frozen before they’re filled and/or iced, but ensure they’re wrapped in plastic to stop freezer burn.
Biscuits are best frozen raw: make a batch of dough and freeze in portions on a tray. Place in the freezer for a few hours, then transfer to a container or bag (separate biscuits with baking paper) and place back in the freezer.
Label everything and rotate supplies
Marking what every dish is and when it was made makes it easier to identify, which can be difficult when you have a freezer full of food.
While it’s safe to store food in the freezer for years, it's a good idea to put new things at the back of the freezer and use older food first.
Defrost and reheat meals properly
The best way to thaw foods before reheating is placing them in the fridge overnight or until fully defrosted. Leaving food out on the bench can be unsafe if it forms bacteria or is contaminated by the kitchen surface. If using the microwave to defrost, use a microwave-safe container and always use the defrost setting to prevent cooking the food instead of thawing.
Let your food processor take the strain
You can use your food processor and blender to make batch cooking prep easier. If you're chopping more than a couple of onions or a few bunches of herbs, it's worth getting out the food processor. You can also freeze some of these ingredients to use later, such as chopped onions, grated cheese or breadcrumbs.
Save leftover sauces
If you’ve made too much sauce then portion servings into resealable bags, then lie them down flat while freezing. You can then stand them up like a filing system later. Keep in mind that cream-based soups and sauces don't always freeze well.
For smaller portions, you can use ice-cube trays to freeze sauce and, once frozen, then store in a container or bag.
When freezing liquids, don’t fill the container or bag to the top. Leave an air gap in case it expands while freezing.
Don't overfill the freezer
A full freezer is more efficient than an empty one, but you still need to leave room for air to circulate for effective operation. Avoid putting hot food in your freezer, let it cool to room temperature first.
What you should and shouldn't freeze
Should I freeze freshly cooked rice and pasta?
While you can certainly freeze cooked rice and pasta, we advise against it. The freezing process can change the taste and you'll get better results when they’re freshly cooked. That said, freezing saucy pasta bakes or lasagne is fine.
Can I freeze pre-cooked vegetables?
Pre-cooking and freezing vegetables is a great way to reduce food wastage and retain nutrition. Good vegetables for this are corn kernels, beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and asparagus.
Before freezing, first blanch, steam or cook them in the microwave (rather than boiling, which absorbs more water), so there's less chance of overcooking them. Dry vegetables with a paper towel, leave to cool to room temperature, then place in a freezer bag. Squeeze the air out and freeze.
Which fruits should I freeze?
Most fruits freeze well. Berries, bananas, oranges, stone fruits, mango, kiwifruit and more can be frozen. It's easier if you prepare the fruit before freezing.
Wash and dry the fruit thoroughly, then peel and chop into pieces. Pat dry with paper towel and freeze on trays so the fruit doesn’t stick together. Once frozen, transfer to plastic bags and label with the date frozen.
Which vegetables shouldn't I freeze?
Not all vegetables will freeze well, particularly those with a high percentage of water. Capsicum, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and radishes shouldn’t be frozen.
Leafy herbs such as parsley or basil shouldn’t be frozen straight from the garden. Instead, chop them up and freeze in ice-cube trays (you can add olive oil), then transfer to freezer bags.
Can I freeze nuts?
Yes. Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts (whole or crushed meal) will freeze well. We suggest freezing them in a resealable bag. They can last a year or more in the freezer, and you can cook with them straight from the freezer or add to the food processor for pesto, cakes, nut butters or smoothies.
A secret to making super-crunchy chips is that the surface should be as dry as possible when it hits the hot oil. We don’t normally recommend putting hot food in the fridge or freezer, but popping your parboiled chips in the super dry air of your freezer (well away from already frozen food) for 10 minutes can strip the moisture from them, giving you delicious, crunchy fries.
Leftover wine, coffee or stock?
Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. If you need stock for cooking, then it's already portioned out or you can chill your wine or iced coffee on a hot day without watering them down.
A fun treat for the kids?
To help amuse the kids and provide a fun, healthy snack, cut fruit into shapes, put a skewer into them, and freeze. Likewise, if you have some yoghurt due to expire soon, blend with some fruit and freeze it in an ice block mould.
Where's the best place to put your freezer?
Where you place the freezer in your home is important; you need a location where it can manage temperatures well. Keeping it in the garage or any area that experiences significant temperature fluctuations can result in higher running costs. Our tests of fridge-freezers and freezers show which models struggle to control the internal temperature when it gets hot or cold outside.
It's also important to have your freezer set to the right temperature. The best way to check this is by using a fridge thermometer. Check regularly throughout the year to make sure your freezer stays at a stable temperature.