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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


What to Freeze

Your freezer is not just a place to store chili and Chunky Monkey. Think of it more as the arctic extension of your pantry: a place to store staples―and even some specialty items―that will make your cooking more efficient and more enjoyable.

Berries: Spread berries (or any other small, squishable item, such as hors d'oeuvres, meatballs, drop cookies, and leftover cooked ravioli and tortellini) out on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag. This method will prevent them from clumping together.

Flavor cubes: Use ice-cube trays to freeze leftover broth, orange juice, or milk. Freeze portions of pesto, tomato paste, coffee, tea, or wine (for cooking, not drinking). Once solid, the cubes can be transferred to a resealable freezer bag for safekeeping.

Casseroles: Don't hold the casserole dish hostage in the freezer while you wait to use its contents. Instead, line a casserole with foil, assemble the uncooked food in it, wrap, freeze until solid, then lift out the foil and the contents. Transfer the block to a freezer bag until you're ready to thaw and cook.

Eggs: You can freeze eggs as long as they are out of the shell and beaten. Stash yolks and whites separately in resealable plastic bags. (If you're freezing only yolks, beat each with about a teaspoon of sugar first to keep them fresh.) Thaw under hot running water or in the refrigerator overnight.

Leftover pancakes and waffles: Let them cool, separate with wax paper to prevent sticking, then freeze in resealable plastic bags. To reheat, don't thaw―just pop them in the toaster oven.

Cakes: To preserve frosted cake (a whole cake or a piece), place it in the freezer uncovered until the frosting is firm (about two hours, depending on the frosting), then wrap in plastic, then foil. To thaw, unwrap the foil and the plastic, then reshape the foil so it creates a tent over the cake. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.

Nuts: They contain oils that can turn rancid if you keep them in a pantry.

Firm cheeses: Grate cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano, and aged provolone, and store in a resealable plastic bag.

Fruit: Freeze cubed melon, peaches, mangoes, watermelon, and bananas that are in danger of becoming overripe, and use them to make smoothies or frozen margaritas.


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