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Thanksgiving Recipes and Leftovers

Freezer Fundamentals

Twenty-seven tips for wrapping, storing, and thawing all the foods you freeze.

By Melissa Clark
Freezer interior with frozen dinners, ziploc items, ice trayJames Worrell

How to Freeze

Don't view the freezer as an intermediary between the stove and the trash can. It sounds obvious, but freeze only the foods you liked before they were frozen. There are many things you can do to keep soups and casseroles tasting almost as good as they were when they went into the freezer, but no food is going to taste better after it's been frozen and thawed.

Use the right gear. Use containers and wraps designed for the freezer; they are thick enough to keep moisture in and freezer odors out. Thinner sandwich bags and regular kitchen wrap―even when doubled up―are not durable enough to withstand the big chill. If you are going to freeze anything long-term in glass, make sure the glass is either tempered (the type used for canning jars) or specifically labeled for freezing. Since even freezer-safe glass can crack as food expands, always make sure to leave about 3/4 inch of space between the top of the food and the lid. Freeze in small portions. Whenever possible, pack food in small containers. Large portions in large containers freeze more slowly. The faster food freezes, the fresher it will taste when it's thawed.

Slice before you freeze. Slice bread and halve bagels before freezing for easy one-person servings. Slip bagel halves into the freezer bag back-to-back so they're less likely to stick together.

Squeeze out excess air. Where there's excess air, there's freezer burn. When you're storing items such as sliced bread in a bag, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. When you're storing sauces, soups, or stews in containers, however, leave a bit of space at the top of the container to prevent the liquid, which expands, from freezing to the lid.

Stash strategically. Wait for hot foods to cool down to room temperature before you freeze them. Then leave plenty of space around the container in the freezer so the cold air can circulate around it; this will accelerate the freezing. When the item is finally frozen, go ahead and stack it with everything else.

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Make this crisp salad into a hearty next-day lunch: Tuck the leftovers into a toasted baguette spread with wasabi mayonnaise, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.