Here’s How Long You Can Really Freeze Food

Freezing food doesn't have to be a mystery. Our handy chart—plus freezing and thawing tips—will have you stockpiling like a pro in no time.

Most busy home cooks love the idea of make-ahead freezer meals, but some of us are too nervous to try this genius meal-prep technique. Are you steering clear because you’re worried about causing freezer burn, thawing food safely, or having to eat a mushy freezer meal? Well, you don’t have to be concerned about any of that! Here’s some guidance to make freezing food super easy. First, make sure you know about these frozen foods that you’re probably storing wrong.

# of Months
Casseroles 2-3
Soups & Stews 2-3
Uncooked Bacon 1
Uncooked Steak 6-12
Uncooked Pork Chops 4-6
Ground Beef 4
Cooked Chicken Pieces 4
Uncooked Chicken Pieces 9
Whole chicken or Turkey 12
Cooked Fish 4-6
Cooked Shrimp 3
Ice Cream 2
Cheese, Hard or Soft 6
Butter 6-9
Frozen Veggies 8
Baked Pie 1-2
Cheesecake 2-3
Baked Quick Bread 2-3
Yeast Bread or Rolls 3-6
Baked Cookies 8-12

What to know before you freeze anything

Freezing food successfully is a cinch when you follow these tricks. You’ll never have to worry about freezer burn or clumpy foods again. Psst: Freezer-burned food may not look good, but it is safe to eat. These products make freezing food so much easier.

  • Use a thermometer to monitor your freezer. For optimum quality, it should be 0°F.
  • Cool food quickly and evenly before freezing.
  • If you’re not sure that something will freeze well, try a small amount first. After it’s thawed and reheated, decide if the quality is up to your standards.
  • Season sparingly before freezing and add more later if necessary. Spices change flavor during freezer storage.
  • Keep the freezer two-thirds full for energy efficiency.
  • Leave some space around each package so air can circulate.
  • Manage the quantities so whatever is placed in the freezer is frozen solid within 24 hours. Adding a lot of food at once will increase freezing time.
  • Store nuts, flour, and juice in the door because it’s frequently opened. Save the colder parts of the freezer for other foods.
  • Freeze fruits and vegetables at the peak of flavor.

Make sure you’re thawing food safely

Want to take something out of the freezer? We have tricks for defrosting, too. There are three safe methods of thawing frozen food. Here’s the scoop.

  • Refrigerator: Defrosting in the refrigerator is the safest and most fuss-free method, but it’s also the slowest, so plan ahead. Smaller items like a pound of ground beef defrost overnight. Most items take a day or two. For small beef and pork roasts, allow 3 to 5 hours per pound of meat; for larger cuts, allow 5 to 7 hours. Prepping for Thanksgiving? A whole turkey will take 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight.
  • Cold water: This type of defrosting requires less time than the refrigerator but more attention. Place food in a watertight plastic storage bag; place bag in cold water. Change water every 30 minutes until food is thawed.
  • Microwave: Defrosting in the microwave is suitable for last-minute thawing of small items. Unwrap the food and place it in a microwave-safe dish. Cook the food immediately after defrosting.

You’ve now got all the tips you need for freezer success! Just make sure you’re never, ever freezing these 16 foods.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home

Rashanda Cobbins
Rashanda loves all things food! When she’s not selecting recipe content for the magazines you love, she enjoys tracking culinary trends and predicting the next ‘it’ thing in the world of food.