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Preserve Freshness by Freezing Food Fast

To prevent freezer damage, it’s a race against time.
By Published May 29, 2019

Freezing preserves food—and damages it. As the food freezes, ice crystals form that can rupture the food’s cell walls, allowing moisture (and nutrients) to leach out when the food thaws. But the faster the food freezes, the smaller the ice crystals are and the less damage that occurs. That’s why commercial food processors blast items such as peas, berries, and shrimp individually with extremely cold air before packaging them together—an approach known as IQF (individual quick-freezing). Without the surrounding items that block cold air and prevent items in the middle from fully freezing until the outer items have done so, the food can cool down more quickly.

To prove the point, we weighed out three 12-ounce batches of raspberries and froze them three different ways. We froze the first batch as fast as we could by pouring negative‑320-degree liquid nitrogen over the berries in a baking pan. We approximated an IQF approach with the second batch by spreading the berries over a baking sheet to freeze. We froze the third batch packed into a zipper-lock bag. We recorded how long it took each batch to freeze and then thawed the berries and measured the amount of liquid each batch released.

Not surprisingly, the berries flash-frozen by liquid nitrogen suffered almost no loss of juice when thawed. But we weren’t prepared for the huge difference between the baking‑sheet berries and the ones frozen in the plastic bag. The latter took more than four times as long to freeze as the berries on the baking sheet and lost more than double the amount of liquid upon thawing.

Takeaway: To minimize damage to meat, vegetables, and fruits, it pays to first freeze the food in a single layer.

LIQUID NITROGEN

Time to freeze: <1 minute

Weight loss of thawed fruit: 4 percent

SINGLE LAYER

Time to freeze: 2 hours

Weight loss of thawed fruit: 12 percent

ZIPPER-LOCK BAG

Time to freeze: 9 hours

Weight loss of thawed fruit: 30 percent

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.