Usually, I wouldn’t get jazzed about March being frozen food month, but these are unusual times.
With so many isolated at home, working long hours on-the-job or juggling work and family in entirely new ways, it's time to let your freezer take the stress out of meal prep.
I thought the most interesting way to tackle frozen foods would be to debunk some long standing myths. So, here goes.
Myth: It’s ok to thaw frozen food on the kitchen counter. There are only three safe ways to thaw food prior to cooking, and leaving it on the counter is not one of them.
The gold standard is to give yourself enough time to thaw food completely in the refrigerator. This ensures food is never exposed to unsafe temperatures.
But, if you’re strapped for time, you can also thaw food under room temperature running water (not hot water) or thaw it in the microwave. Just be sure to fully cook your food directly after using either of these two methods.
Myth: Frozen food is unhealthy or less healthy than fresh food. This one makes every dietitian I know want to pull their hair out.
Foods are often frozen at the peak of freshness, and the freezing process does not destroy nutrients. That means those frozen vegetables are not only healthy, but they may pack an even bigger nutrient punch than their fresh counterparts.
And did I mention, frozen food keeps longer? No need to pester anyone in your house about eating the fruits and vegetables before they go bad if they’re stored in the freezer.
If you haven’t tried frozen fruits, I encourage you to do so. There are some great mixed fruit options (my favorite is the tropical stuff) that make for a nice addition to smoothies, or even a cool treat right out of the freezer.
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Myth: Freezing food keeps it good forever. Yes, but not in a way your taste buds would enjoy.
Freezing a food inactivates any microbes—bacteria, yeasts, molds—that may be present. This means any properly frozen food will remain safe indefinitely. This doesn’t mean, however, that the food will remain fun to eat once it’s thawed.
Too much time spent at 0 degrees Fahrenheit can really do a number on the overall taste and texture of any food. Even ice cubes aren’t immune to the effects of long-term freezing. You know that stale ice smell and taste that can ruin even the best cold drink.
Want to avoid any unpleasant frozen foods? Follow these recommendations from the USDA:
-Use casseroles within two to three months
-Use frozen dinners or entrees within three to four months
-Use ham, hotdogs or lunchmeat within one to two months
-Use uncooked steaks, chops or roasts within four to 12 months
-Use uncooked ground meat within three to four months
-Use uncooked poultry parts within nine months
Lots of factors come into play when determining how long a specific food will retain its quality in the freezer, but a big consideration is the moisture content of the food. That’s why cooked meats—where moisture has been lost—often don’t hold their quality for quite as long as uncooked meats.
So, next time you’re stocking up, remember the freezer is your friend.
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