When you can't eat it now, you can always freeze it and eat it later. The problem is food can get pretty gross in the freeze without proper care. Here's how to freeze and defrost the right way.
Photo by GoodFood
I once heard on an infomercial for an overpriced air sealer that "air is the enemy of freshness". While I wouldn't recommend the product (even if I could remember it) that annoying phrase has been stuck in my head ever since. It's basically true, however, and it's especially relevant when freezing meats. Air will dry out your meats and cause it to lose flavour, texture and sometimes even its rich colour. Your best bet for maintaining meats is to wrap them in freezer paper, put the wrapped meat in a plastic bag, and then remove the air before freezing. The easiest way to remove the air from a bag is just with a plastic straw. You seal the bag around the straw, suck the air out, and then quickly seal the bag.
Fruits and Veggies
Freezing fruits and veggies well is a little different from meats but still just as easy. Like with meats, you want to remove air from the bags, but generally you want to freeze your fruits and veggies on a tray first. Here's how it works with blueberries:
While you can use these general tips for freezing most items, there are some specifics. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation's "How Do I...Freeze?" Guide for more specific tips on specific fruits and veggies.
It's really easy to just toss things in the freezer and forget about them until you're ready to eat. If you don't use your freezer for much, that's not a big deal, but realistically you're going to have a bunch of food in there and it's going to be hard to find. When you're storing your freezer-safe bags full of foods, be sure to label them with a fat permanent marker so you can easily read the contents. You'll also want to mark the date they took up residency in your freezer so you don't accidentally defrost something that is no longer safe to eat.
Fresh vs Frozen
Fresh food is great — when it's actually fresh. Unfortunately, not all of us have the opportunity to eat truly fresh food all of the time. In the video above, Alton Brown quickly discusses when you should buy fresh and when you should buy frozen. Truly fresh food is grown where you live. If it's grown somewhere else, frozen food can often be fresher. If you don't have access to locally grown food, buying "fresh" food in your grocery store might 1) not taste as good (or as fresh), and 2) not be the greatest source for freezing for later. If you can't buy the freshest food when it's fresh, buying frozen might be your best option. It's often cheaper, easier and will taste better in the long run.
When you're ready to eat, it's time to take your food out of the freezer. The best thing you can do when thawing out your food is give it lots of time to happen naturally. Extreme temperature changes can cause problems, so your microwave — although quick and easy — is not the ideal route to take. Leaving it in the refrigerator all day is one effective method. Alternatively, you can place your food in a watertight container and submerge it in cold water. You'll need to change the water periodically, as it will warm up, but you'll only have to do this every 30-60 minutes until your food has thawed out.
For more information on freezing your food — including specific tips for specific foods — check out National Center for Home Food Preservation's "How Do I...Freeze?" Guide. If you've got any great tips of your own, share 'em in the comments!