On November 10, 2011 by Erin Fullam
One of the most common questions we get around here is what types of containers are best for freezing? The answer varies a lot by recipe, space and budget. Our menus and recipe cards have all the container information factored in for your indicated servings, you simply need to look at the printable recipe cards for that month for our specific suggestions. We most commonly use freezer bags and 8×8 foil pans for our menus. This way we can accommodate all freezer sizes and still maximize your menus! In general, here are the types of containers we use and/or recommend:
Zippered Freezer Bags
I use these most often for items that will be thawed in the refrigerator first, and then cooked. You DO NOT want to skimp on cheap freezer bags, after all you are wrapping an investment, a food investment.
- When freezing items, especially sauces and liquids, in freezer bags you may want to make sure that the contents are laying completely flat when you place them in the freezer. I have even used cake pans before to make sure that they freeze flat. Remember, whatever form they freeze in is how they will stay!
- Leave 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch headspace (the space between the food and the zipper or top of container). Foods expand as they freeze and you don’t want the bag to burst or to leak.
- Common Uses: Sandwiches, quesadillas, muffins, vegetables, soups, sauces, pastas, items that will go in the crock pot to cook and meats.
Disposable Plastic Containers
These are perfectly fine for freezer use, they are actually thicker and thus protect against freezer burn better than zippered freezer bags. They are higher cost than zippered freezer bags but they can be reused again and again which makes them a better environmental choice. And if you can happen to get enough use out of them they are less expensive than zippered bags. I also like the fact that they stack better in the freezer.
- These are also great options for portioning out lunch items or items that will go with a family member to work or school in individual portions.
- If you can get your family members and your cooking partner to return these to you, they are a very good option. Again, if using these types of containers you will want to leave 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch headspace for food expansion.
- Common Uses: Soups, sauces and individual portions.
I know this is not the most environmentally friendly method, but it is simple and easy on assembly and clean up. I also prefer these types of pans because they make it easy to take food to others in need. I don’t ever have to worry about getting my pans back.
- Menus typically indicate 8×8 pans or Deep Dish 8×8 pans. You can usually find both at either the Dollar Store or Christmas Tree Shops. I have also used the Deep Dish 7×11 pans when I can’t find Deep Dish 8×8 pans.
- When you have completed the dish, cover it with a double layer of aluminum foil. This helps seal in the meal and prevent leaks as well as prevent freezer burn.
- Common Uses: Casseroles, dishes that I don’t want to have to thaw before placing in the oven, dishes that might end up going to a friend in need and breads.
Disposable Plastic Pans
I found these about a year in a half ago and have frequently used them for meals that I know I will be taking to others. I LOVE that if I forget to thaw the item, I can throw them in the microwave to defrost for a bit and then throw them in the oven without worry. I definitely can’t do that with foil pans.
- They are more expensive than their foil counterparts but come with a lid and are so much easier to stack in your freezer. Less chance of a mess.
- The down side to these pans is that you have to cook them on a cookie sheet and I feel like that ends up adding to the overall cook time. BUT I suppose if you adjust for that you should be just fine.
- Common Uses: casseroles, dishes that I don’t want to have to thaw before placing in the oven, and dishes that might end up going to a friend in need.
There are many that use personal baking dishes. Some have enough to freeze all of their meals, others do not. I have heard of readers scouring garage sales and thrift stores to find pans that are the right size and reusable. You can freeze your meal in the dish that you are planning to use or you can line your pans with foil to freeze them. You just need to make sure that the pan you “formed” the meal to will be available when you are ready to cook your meal. If you are freezing food in glass baking pans just make sure that you slowly thaw out the dish and don’t place the frozen dish directly into the oven. You may end up with a shattered mess.
- Common Uses: casseroles, dishes that I don’t want to have to thaw before placing in the oven, dishes that might end up going to a friend in need, breads.
The key to keeping your meals as fresh and free from freezer burn is to keep them as air tight as you can, cool it to a proper temperature before putting it away, and leave space for liquids to expand.
Do you have any favorite tips or tricks when freezing your meals? Share with us below!
- Flash Freezing
- Allowing Proper Headspace
- Ordering Bulk Foil Pans:
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