When it comes to long-term food storage, the freezer is one of the most useful tools in your kitchen, but it’s not as simple as throwing food in a container and letting it chill. To make sure your food freezes fast with minimal damage, freeze it flat.
As J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats explains in the above video (and in the article linked below), the two enemies of frozen food are air and time:
When food freezes slowly, large ice crystals form inside it. These jagged crystals can damage cell structure, which in turn causes the food to become mushy and wet after defrosting. Meanwhile, direct exposure to air leads to sublimation, which is the phase change from solid ice directly to gaseous water vapour that’s responsible for freezer burn.
To help prevent both of these unsavoury outcomes, Kenji demonstrates how to prep both semi-solids (like ground meat and stews) and liquids by filling a freezer bag and carefully pressing out almost all of the air. Once you have a flat bag of food, lay it down in your freezer until solid, then stack or file everything neatly for the most organised freezer you’ve ever seen. Beyond meat and soups, this method also works well with grains and herbs, letting you break off as much or as little as you want for reheating.
When you’re ready to defrost your bounty, grab an aluminium pan. Aluminium is great conductor of energy, letting you defrost foods twice as fast as they normally would at room temperature, meaning you don’t have to panic if you forgot to transfer food to the fridge the night before.
The Better, Faster Way to Freeze and Defrost Your Foods [Serious Eats]