Author Topic: Freezer storage containers?  (Read 2900 times)

englishteacheralex

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Freezer storage containers?
« on: September 02, 2016, 02:11:43 PM »
We're getting into the freezer food hobby--making a couple of casseroles, chilis, soups, etc. Just saw a pile of free large ziploc containers in the "giveaway" pile at work. Score? Good for freezing soups in? Or are they not air-tight enough?

Who has freezer food dialed in?

terran

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2016, 02:16:06 PM »
For thicker soups and beans we've found refrigerating them overnight to thicken a bit more then scooping into a measuring cup and plopping on a cookie sheet and freezing then bagging works well.

Cranky

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2016, 02:37:09 PM »
The ziploc style containers are fine if you're only freezing for the short term. They can crack when frozen, though.

I use a lot of wide mouth canning jars for freezing. You do have to remember to leave enough room for expansion when they freeze, though.

Systems101

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2016, 08:19:40 PM »
I eat a lot out of my freezer.  For me, it's a tremendously effectively way of time shifting.  I can cook a 22 lb turkey and 5 lb of potatoes, and that freezes to a good set of meals for a single person (easily more than a dozen).  Dinners during the work week can then be cooked in under 8 minutes.  So while I'm eating out of my freezer, it's rather healthy food, and stuff I really like.

Your biggest enemy is "freezer burn".  One thing that will always be happening is that moisture will be moving around in the air in a container.  Even tiny temperature fluctuations in a deep freezer will cause ice to sublimate and refreeze elsewhere (closer to the cooling coils - i.e. usually the walls).  This, combined with oxidation of the food, is "freezer burn".  This reduces food quality, and is the main reason we limit how long we keep frozen food.

A "frost free" freezer goes through temperature cycles, and thus exacerbates the issues with having air in the food container.  So the more likely it is that it's in a normal freezer for any period of time, the more the storage medium will matter.

I see you mentioned containers, but a note for folks using bags: Are they freezer bags?  If not, they will transmit moisture/oxygen, and thus won't do much to prevent freezer burn.  The freezer bags are intentionally made with different forms of plastic that bind together to significantly inhibit the ability of water to move through the bag.

There are a few solutions to reducing the impact of freezer burn, and pretty much any one of these will work:

(1) Avoid having any air (or at least significantly minimize it).  This is possible with vacuum sealing.  (I happen to be a big fan of my FoodSaver). 

(2) Store things like soup or sauces that are already high in water content.  Things that are remixed as they are reheated (soups, pasta sauce) are especially fine in this category.  Personally, I still try to minimize the amount of air and surface area.  This is often best done with some form of mostly - but not completely - filled solid container, like Cranky mentioned (because a ziploc bag and the like will separate from the frozen soup and add significant surface area).  If you use glass, it's important to use something designed for it - like dual purpose canning jars since they are tempered glass and are much less likely to crack/break when frozen.

(3) don't store things for a long time.

A few specific examples:
- I pre-cook and store various meats, especially Turkey and Chicken.  I freeze both in vacuum sealed "bags" (actually from the roll and I cut it to the required size).  Both are frozen under broth, approx 1-2 tsp per 4oz of cooked meat (I generally put in 2tsp, but a bunch of that is sucked out in the sealing process).  The Turkey from its own juices, and the Chicken from either a boil of the bones, et al, or from a 50c can of commercial broth that covers a good dozen chicken breasts.
- I vacuum seal portions of fully cooked mashed potatoes (already high liquid content - note I don't add milk or butter before freezing) and partially cooked rice [made with 2/3 of recipe's water and frozen while still undercooked, then add 1Tsp water per 4oz rice - the microwave finishes the cooking job during reheating]
- I vacuum seal pasta sauce as well, but that's because I'm sealing up very small quantities, like 3 Tsp at a time.  I want to avoid a freeze-heat-freeze-heat cycle when using small portions.  My mom freezes pasta sauce in plastic containers, 2 Cups+ at a time.
- Soups happily go into plastic containers, as they often have enough liquid on the surface to act as a barrier and take the impact of the initial sublimation.  Yes, it forms a bit of a freezer-burned surface on the top 1/16" or so, but since it will be mixed back in, the quality is rarely noticed in the reheated product as long as it's not stored for too long.
- Some cookies: I have a cookie scoop and freeze the little balls (put them uncovered on a cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 min) and then put them into a freezer ziploc.  Again, the baking post freeze will hide any freezer burn, and mostly these are used within a few weeks at most, so there is very little opportunity to get material freezer burn anyway.

One other note: reheat on 30-50% power.  Microwaves have "hot spots" and water absorbs the waves more easily than ice, so the part that melts first will heat up even more.  The "off times" allow the heat to distribute and in my experience will improve the quality of the reheated food.

Edit: minor clarification on containers (bags/glass)
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 08:28:17 PM by Systems101 »

Mrs. S

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2016, 12:07:43 PM »
Depends on how long and how much you plan to store and freeze. I am vegetarian so cannot give you much info on meat but If you are looking for one week's worth of prep and freeze most containers would be fine with it. We regularly save an extra portion for later use in similar containers.
For soups remember to portion them and separately freeze. We learned this the hard way with our hummus thawing a huge batch for a few spoonfulls is not fun.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2016, 06:15:31 PM »
I eat a lot out of my freezer.  For me, it's a tremendously effectively way of time shifting.  I can cook a 22 lb turkey and 5 lb of potatoes, and that freezes to a good set of meals for a single person (easily more than a dozen).  Dinners during the work week can then be cooked in under 8 minutes.  So while I'm eating out of my freezer, it's rather healthy food, and stuff I really like.

Your biggest enemy is "freezer burn".  One thing that will always be happening is that moisture will be moving around in the air in a container.  Even tiny temperature fluctuations in a deep freezer will cause ice to sublimate and refreeze elsewhere (closer to the cooling coils - i.e. usually the walls).  This, combined with oxidation of the food, is "freezer burn".  This reduces food quality, and is the main reason we limit how long we keep frozen food.

A "frost free" freezer goes through temperature cycles, and thus exacerbates the issues with having air in the food container.  So the more likely it is that it's in a normal freezer for any period of time, the more the storage medium will matter.

I see you mentioned containers, but a note for folks using bags: Are they freezer bags?  If not, they will transmit moisture/oxygen, and thus won't do much to prevent freezer burn.  The freezer bags are intentionally made with different forms of plastic that bind together to significantly inhibit the ability of water to move through the bag.

There are a few solutions to reducing the impact of freezer burn, and pretty much any one of these will work:

(1) Avoid having any air (or at least significantly minimize it).  This is possible with vacuum sealing.  (I happen to be a big fan of my FoodSaver). 

(2) Store things like soup or sauces that are already high in water content.  Things that are remixed as they are reheated (soups, pasta sauce) are especially fine in this category.  Personally, I still try to minimize the amount of air and surface area.  This is often best done with some form of mostly - but not completely - filled solid container, like Cranky mentioned (because a ziploc bag and the like will separate from the frozen soup and add significant surface area).  If you use glass, it's important to use something designed for it - like dual purpose canning jars since they are tempered glass and are much less likely to crack/break when frozen.

(3) don't store things for a long time.

A few specific examples:
- I pre-cook and store various meats, especially Turkey and Chicken.  I freeze both in vacuum sealed "bags" (actually from the roll and I cut it to the required size).  Both are frozen under broth, approx 1-2 tsp per 4oz of cooked meat (I generally put in 2tsp, but a bunch of that is sucked out in the sealing process).  The Turkey from its own juices, and the Chicken from either a boil of the bones, et al, or from a 50c can of commercial broth that covers a good dozen chicken breasts.
- I vacuum seal portions of fully cooked mashed potatoes (already high liquid content - note I don't add milk or butter before freezing) and partially cooked rice [made with 2/3 of recipe's water and frozen while still undercooked, then add 1Tsp water per 4oz rice - the microwave finishes the cooking job during reheating]
- I vacuum seal pasta sauce as well, but that's because I'm sealing up very small quantities, like 3 Tsp at a time.  I want to avoid a freeze-heat-freeze-heat cycle when using small portions.  My mom freezes pasta sauce in plastic containers, 2 Cups+ at a time.
- Soups happily go into plastic containers, as they often have enough liquid on the surface to act as a barrier and take the impact of the initial sublimation.  Yes, it forms a bit of a freezer-burned surface on the top 1/16" or so, but since it will be mixed back in, the quality is rarely noticed in the reheated product as long as it's not stored for too long.
- Some cookies: I have a cookie scoop and freeze the little balls (put them uncovered on a cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 min) and then put them into a freezer ziploc.  Again, the baking post freeze will hide any freezer burn, and mostly these are used within a few weeks at most, so there is very little opportunity to get material freezer burn anyway.

One other note: reheat on 30-50% power.  Microwaves have "hot spots" and water absorbs the waves more easily than ice, so the part that melts first will heat up even more.  The "off times" allow the heat to distribute and in my experience will improve the quality of the reheated food.

Edit: minor clarification on containers (bags/glass)

Oh man was this helpful. Thanks a million, lots of good, useful stuff here.

gaja

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2016, 08:29:51 AM »
We try to minimize and standardize in the kitchen. Therefore we only have one type of boxes, stackable in three sizes, that all fit the same lids. These boxes serve as lunch boxes for both adults and children, hold leftovers, store lunch meats in the fridge, and hold homemade freezer dinners.

MBot

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2016, 10:14:01 AM »
I only have 2 containers

2.5 cup "soup" containers from the grocery store - no name and easy to replace if one got dropped etc.

2-3 cent off-brand Ziploc bags

The biggest reason for freezer burn is air, right? So I try to freeze things like raw chicken in a marinade or cooked meat in gravy.

Things like chili or soup or veggies or ground beef or chicken breast? Put them in a cheap baggie , squeeze out all the air and freeze. When you take them out run under hot water, peel the bag off and put the frozen contents on a plate.

At 2-3 cents each they've been doing great for 12+ years for me. I usually eat things within a couple months but some meat has been in wayyy longer.

cj25

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2016, 10:45:08 AM »
Best to store in the freezer are glass canning jars and Glasslock containers.  Glasslock can go from freezer to fridge to oven or microwave. You can get them at places like TJMaxx/Homegoods or even SAMs or Costco.  No nasty chemicals from plastic.

http://glasslockusa.com/

ketchup

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2016, 11:23:47 AM »
I like to use these guys: https://www.amazon.com/Reditainer-Storage-Containers-64-Ounce-8-Pack/dp/B01CRDQQAA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473182726&sr=8-2&keywords=reditainer+64oz

It'd be more convenient (space-efficient) if they were square.  I like to use them for anything reasonably homogeneous.  They're perfect for "bachelor chow" style food in that I can just bring one thawed and one frozen to work on Monday and have lunch all week.

GuitarStv

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2016, 11:45:02 AM »
Any of the plastic containers that milk products come in make great freezer containers, and are free.  Yogurt containers, cottage cheese, ice cream buckets, etc.  Just write the name of what you're storing in them on the lid with a sharpie and you're good to go.

Choices

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2016, 07:16:16 PM »
If we run out of Rubbermaid, we use Ziploc freezer bags. It's important to lay them flat and spread the contents so you don't end up with a bunch of strangely shaped blobs that are hard to stack or Tetris in your freezer space.

geekette

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2016, 08:39:46 PM »
Another thing you can do with a vacuum sealer is freeze first, then vacuum seal (good for hamburger patties, chicken pieces, etc). Saucy stuff can be (carefully) frozen in bag, then sealed, so you don't lose the liquid. Soups can be frozen in a flexible container, popped out, then sealed without the container. When you want to thaw, take it out of the bag and put it back I the same style container.

I'm a huge fan of the Foodsaver vacs!

chasesfish

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Re: Freezer storage containers?
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2016, 08:45:48 PM »
We bought two sets of these when they went on sale after fighting with cheap containers for years.

http://www.costco.com/Rubbermaid-30-pc.-Premier-Food-Storage-Set.product.100042450.html

Tar and feather me, but they've been wonderful for freezing, portioning out bulk snacks, microwaving, ect.   We love doing large batches of chili or pasta sauce