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These 10 Freezing and Defrosting Hacks Save Major Time and Money

Don't have hours to defrost your steak? Don't want to waste precious fruits and veggies? These tricks to freeze and defrost food can help you be more efficient in the kitchen.

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Freeze berries: Use a baking sheet

Prevent a mushy mess by freezing berries on a baking sheet in a single layer first. The exposure to the cold freezes them quickly. This prevents the formation of large ice crystals, which destroys cell walls and makes berries lose their structure and become soft when they thaw. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag.

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Freeze milk: Save it before vacation

Accidentally bought a gallon of milk before leaving town? Freeze it at 0ºF for up to three months. Milk expands when frozen, so pour out a bit first if the container is full. Thaw in the refrigerator for two to three days.

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Freeze bacon grease: Use an ice cube tray

After Sunday morning brunch, make a delicious topping while reducing waste. Pour leftover bacon fat from the pan into an ice cube tray and freeze. Throughout the week, warm up the cubes and drizzle on salad or trickle over popcorn—or use to fry potatoes.

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Freeze avocados: Puree them first

Freezing avocados changes their consistency (making them squishy and not-so-preferable for sandwiches), but they’ll still be tasty in guacamole. Puree with a food processor and add one teaspoon of lime or lemon juice (these acidic agents prevent browning) per avocado. Store in an airtight container. The puree will last for five months.

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Freeze tomatoes: Save for sauces

Preserve summer produce for quick sauces and soups all year. Freeze ripe whole tomatoes in a single layer on a tray with parchment paper. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag, where they’ll keep for up to eight months. To thaw, run under warm water, and the skin will slip right off. 

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Freeze ground beef: Use a rolling pin and chopsticks

Plan ahead to quickly defrost ground beef for a dinner for one: Before freezing, press it thin in a plastic bag with a rolling pin (increasing surface area will speed up thawing later). Use a chopstick to crisscross and separate the meat into portioned squares. When ready to cook, break off as many pieces as you’d like; defrosting will be a quick breeze.

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Defrost butter: Use a glass filled with hot water

To make cold butter spreadable (but not a puddle!), put the amount you plan to use on a plate. Fill a glass with hot water until it is warm on the outside, then pour out the water, dry quickly, and place the glass over the butter. After about a minute, the butter will be soft and ready.

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Defrost berries: Use a cold-water bath

Typically, it’s best to thaw frozen berries in the refrigerator overnight. However, if you’re craving blueberries for breakfast and didn’t prepare in advance, there is a quicker method. Instead of microwaving, which can make frozen berries soggy, pour them into a bowl and cover with cold water. This will thaw one cup of blueberries in about five minutes. 

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Defrost hard ice cream: Use a knife

Ice cream hard as a brick? Heat a sharp knife under warm water, then use it to make one-inch-deep cuts in a grid formation, spacing the lines about an inch apart. This increases your sweet treat’s exposed surface area, speeding up the thawing process (similar to the beef trick). Run a scooper under warm water, and easily serve up each section. 

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Defrost meat: Try the "two-pots" trick

Thank high school science for this neat trick: Remember, metal conducts heat. Place meat in a plastic bag, then put it on top of an upside-down aluminum pot. Fill another pot with room-temperature water, and set it on the meat. In five to ten minutes, your meat will be defrosted.

Sources: cookinglight.com, foodnetwork.com, huffingtonpost.com, avocadocentral.com, Vegetarian Times, food.unl.edu, clemson.edu, healthyeating.org, America’s Test Kitchen, womenshealthmag.com, favoritefreezerfoods.com, lifehacker.com, thekitchn.com

Originally Published in Reader's Digest