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Cooking Q&A: Best Way To Freeze Food?

Q.

What’s the best way to freeze food and how long will it last in the freezer?

A.

Your food’s biggest enemy in the freezer is oxygen, so the more air you remove from the container or bag you freeze the item in, the longer it will last. Use freezer zip-top bags (sandwich-style bags are too thin and could allow freezer burn) or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids in the smallest size that will fit what you’re freezing. Press (or suck) all of the air out of the bags before sealing. Keep raw meat in the original packaging, but seal the whole package in a bag.

Food will last almost indefinitely in the freezer, but the quality of the food deteriorates over time. To maintain the best quality, the USDA recommends using frozen foods within the amount of time listed:

  • Casserole: 3 to 4 months
  • Raw eggs, whites and yolks (not in shell): 1 year
  • Raw hamburger, ground and stew-cut meats: 3 to 4 months
  • Hot dogs and lunch meats: 1 to 2 months
  • Soups and stews: 2 to 3 months
  • Bacon and sausage: 1 to 2 months
  • Steaks: 6 to 12 months
  • Chops: 4 to 6 months
  • Roasts: 4 to 12 months
  • Meat leftovers: 2 to 3 months
  • Chicken or turkey, whole: 1 year
  • Chicken or turkey, parts: 9 months
  • Cooked poultry: 4 to 6 months
  • Shellfish: 3 to 6 months
  • Lean fish (sole, catfish, tilapia): 6 months
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut): 2 to 3 months
  • Cooked fish: 4 to 6 months

If you often buy in bulk to pack and freeze for future use, look into FoodSaver vacuum-sealing devices. There are several types of sealers with different features and prices that start at $40 on basic models. Vacuum-sealing food virtually eliminates the chances of your food getting freezer burn, and food will stay fresh up to five times longer than traditional freezing methods.

-- Colleen Rush

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