Freezing food can save your operation thousands on food costs annually by lengthening the shelf life of items. Then again, freezing foods takes more effort than just throwing things in the freezer until you need them. When you freeze foods, especially meats, there are some things you need to consider to ensure the best quality of food so that your revenue increases along with your cost savings. For commercial kitchens that rely on freezing foods with or without a blast chiller, this guide will help you keep food safe and delicious for extended amounts of time.
What is the best temperature to store frozen foods?
First, let’s talk about temperature. Your freezer is only as good as you make it, so make sure your freezer is set to the optimal standards of frozen food. Set your freezer to 0ºF or -18ºC and below for the best freezing and storage temperature for foods.
The goal is to freeze foods as quickly as possible. As food freezes, the water in them expands, resulting in the formation of ice crystals. When too much ice forms on foods, it can cause damage, which can negatively affect the texture, flavor and nutritional value.
When you set your freezer to 0ºF or -18ºC, it freezes food quickly and forms less ice on the food. This helps you keep the integrity, flavor, and quality of the food at it’s best for extended periods of time,
How long does frozen food last?
Even though you’ve optimized your freezer to the perfect freezing and storage setting, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can keep your foods in there forever. The texture, taste and integrity of the food diminish over time to the point where it is no longer edible.
Unfortunately, there is not one uniform standard for all foods. The length of time that you can freeze food varies from product to product. To help you better understand how long you can store specific foods in the freezer, take a look at this comprehensive guide from the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. This guide details how to freeze food safely, the best temperatures to store and the suggested length of time to keep these foods in the freezer.
How do you properly thaw frozen foods?
Now that you know the ins and outs of freezing foods, you’re probably wondering what are the safest practices for thawing. Unfreezing food is a delicate process that should be handled with care. There are three ways that you can successfully thaw foods that have been frozen solid:
- Refrigerator Thawing - Thawing foods in the refrigerator allows for safe, slow thawing. If you choose to thaw meats this way, ensure that they are placed on a tray or large plate. This will help prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Thawing with Cold Water - For a quicker thawing process, place frozen foods in a leak proof plastic bag and submerge them into a basin of cold tap water. Change the water in the basin every 30 minutes to keep the temperature at its best and cook immediately after thawing.
- Microwave Thawing - Microwave thawing is not the best form of thawing, but it can give you the quickest results. Depending on your food, you will need to set the time and frequency levels to ensure thorough thawing. Stop the microwave in intervals and rotate the food for even thawing. Then, once the food is completely thawed, cook it immediately.
Alto-Shaam offers a variety of blast chiller products to assist in your food freezing needs. Learn more about the offerings at A Taste of Alto-Shaam.