Is your freezer feeling a bit like a game of Jenga, with frosted-over plastic containers of leftovers towering precariously and taking up precious real estate? You’re not going to throw away the Best Beef Stew you’ve ever made, it took hours. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to freeze it.
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Enter: Zipper-lock bags. They are the space-saving alternative to throwing your soups, stews, and other liquidy leftovers in your biggest container and shoving the whole thing into your freezer. These bags come with the added bonus of size variety, so you can portion your leftovers out.
By freezing the contents flat (we recommend using a baking sheet), you can then stack the flattened bags with other stews or slide them into wherever there’s space. For organizing bonus points, you can even take things a step further and arrange the flat, frozen bags upright in a desktop file organizer or other container.
Look how much more space you have now! Plus, you’ll be more organized since you can see what you have at a glance. Here’s how to do it.
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Let it Cool
First thing to note: cool what you plan to freeze. Putting a whole pot of hot soup directly into the fridge can increase the fridge’s internal temperature to unsafe levels, which is dangerous for all the other food stored in the fridge. Letting the pot cool on the counter for an hour helps the temperature settle down a bit, at which point you can transfer it safely to the fridge. Once it’s cooled (ideally overnight) it’s ready for the freezer.
Why is this important? The colder the food, the quicker it freezes, and the smaller the ice crystals. Smaller ice crystals are key to enjoying thawed food with a similar consistency and texture as when it was first frozen. Large ice crystals can destroy the food’s structure, making your leftovers taste less delicious than the first go-around.
Freeze it Flat
- Line a large measuring cup or tall reusable container (4 cups or larger) with a zipper-lock bag. This holds the bag open so you can use both hands to pour.
- Pour in the cooled liquid.
- Seal the bag tightly, being careful to squeeze out as much air as possible.
- Lay it flat on a baking sheet and freeze.
This is a good option for rice, gravy, and other sauces, as well as soups and stews. The sky (well, the bag) is the limit! And remember: Always label your bags (it's best to do this before you pour in the liquid).