The GHI guide to freezing food

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How long should you keep food in your freezer?StefaNikolic - Getty Images

If you're not making the most of your freezer, you're really missing a trick! Not only can freezing leftovers help you reduce food waste, it can help you save money too.

There are many misconceptions about what you can and cannot freeze, and for how long. So we consulted our experts at the GHI to put together this guide to freezing food safely and successfully.

The GHI guide to freezing food

While freezing food allows you to keep it for much longer, it goes without saying that frozen food doesn't last forever. Meat should be used within three months and bread only lasts three to six months in the chiller. Any longer and the food will still be safe but the colour, flavour and texture will start to deteriorate.

Find our guide to freezer storage times on the handy infographic below.

freezing guide
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10 good freezer habits

  1. First, make sure your freezer is the right temperature and freezing properly. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) say the the optimum freezer temperature is -18C.

  2. Freezers run more efficiently when filled - however, be careful to not to overload it as air must be able to circulate easily in order to maintain the correct temperature.

  3. Never store away slightly warm foods in the freezer, as these will cause a rise in temperature. The FSA advises that you cool down the food in the fridge first before putting it in the freezer.

  4. When freezing large quantities, use the 'fast-freeze' setting if the appliance has one.

  5. Freezer burn is a big factor to avoid when it comes to frozen foods. The best method is to freeze foods in sealed bags to avoid moisture or cold air coming into contact with the food.

  6. When freezing liquids don't fill containers right to the top. Instead leave a little space to allow for expansion.

  7. Divide items of food that might stick together with baking parchment, foil or freezer paper.

  8. Always label containers with details of the contents, date and quantity/number of servings.

the ghi guide to freezing food
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Our defrosting guide

Freezing is only half the battle! Follow these steps to defrost your food effectively:

  • Do not refreeze cooked food once it has defrosted. Raw defrosted food may be frozen once more, only if it has been cooked after defrosting and before re-freezing.

  • Never leave food to defrost in a warm place (defrosting in the fridge at 5C is the safest way to do it), cover loosely, and ensure it is thoroughly defrosted before cooking - cook food soon after defrosting. The FSA recommends cooking defrosted food within 24 hours of defrost.

  • Plan in advance the meals and defrosting times to ensure the food is defrosted properly throughout before cooking.

  • To defrost meat, place it on a tray or plate to catch the juices and always place in the bottom of the fridge. Small pieces should defrost in around six hours, but large joints and turkeys can take up to 48 hours.

  • To defrost in a microwave, use the defrost setting: this will ensure that the outside of the food doesn’t cook during defrosting. At intervals, break up or stir food as it is defrosting. Make sure to cook the food straight away.

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