How To Wrap Foods For The Freezer

freezerHere's comprhensive advice from a food scientists on how to freezer-wrap practically anything and everything. Does it really matter how food is wrapped for freezing? You bet. Food quality will hold up longer if an item is wrapped properly.


Dry foods:  Dry foods (flour, cake mix, oatmeal) and foods that are high in fat (pie crusts, cookies, bakery goods) need to be wrapped tightly to exclude oxygen which can lead to oxidation and rancid flavor. If you're storing a product in a freezer bag, press down on the wrap prior to sealing it. This will expel oxygen. If you're storing a product in a rubber or plastic container, fill the container as close to the top to displace oxygen. If you're storing food in a plastic wrap, wrap it as tightly as possible to minimize or eliminate room  for oxygen. Foods that  you bring home from the store wrapped in paper should be rewrapped in plastic wrap, bags or plastic containers prior to freezing them.

Moist food and liquids:  Foods that are high in water content need to have sufficient room for expansion.  Water expands 10% in volume during the freezing process.  If freezing in glass containers, a 10% (by volume) empty space should be left for this expansion.  Freezing in flexible plastic, while still requiring some room for expansion, is less likely to result in the lid coming off or the sides of the container cracking due to the pressure of the expansion.
Pre-wrapped fresh (unfrozen) meats, chicken, fish: In general, food that is pre-wrapped should be left in its original wrapping because the more these items are exposed to air and human hands, the more likely they are to become contaminated with bacteria. If you buy raw, unfrozen meat, chicken, or fish that is wrapped loosely in paper, when you get it home, wrap it tightly in an impermeable plastic before freezing. 
Pre-wrapped meat is commonly  wrapped using a process called modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). For better preservation of these products, the air in the package is replaced with gas that doesn’t interact, as oxygen does, with food components. Products wrapped this way  become puffed up when the air is displaced by these gasesProducts should not be frozen in this type of packaging because water can migrate from the food to  the head space (the bubble) created by the gas; the result will be dehydration and freezer burn. Also, if something heavy is placed on top of  the package, the plastic may tear, and, as a result, the food would dry out and develop freezer burn. 
Fresh vegetables: Most vegetables that freeze well require brief, partial cooking to prevent deterioration. This is called blanching. For successful freezing, blanch or partially cook vegetables in boiling water or in a microwave oven. Then rapidly chill the vegetables prior to freezing and storage. Consult a cookbook for timing. Place the vegetables in a sealable freezer bag or airtight plastic container.
Fresh fruits: Place fresh fruits on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish and store them in the freezer until they are frozen solid.  Once they’re frozen, place them in a sealable plastic bag or airtight plastic container.
Bakery items: Prior to freezing cake, refrigerate it overnight to firm up the icing. Frozen cake should be thoroughly covered in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and stored in freezer bags. Do the same with bread. Bread freezes well but tends to get freezer burn more quickly than other frozen foods.
Dairy products: Freezing some dairy products is a bad idea. Heavy creams won't whip after thawing. The concern with lighter creams is that  ingredients tend to separate, resulting in a watery, flecky appearance and consistency. The same goes for dairy-based sauces. Cream or cheese may separate from the sauce and curdle. Solids such as hard cheese fare somewhat better, though hard cheeses may  become crumbly  as a result of  freezing. Soft cheeses will keep up to six months. Store them in a freezer bag or airtight plastic container.


Brewer, M.S. and Chapman-Novakofski, K. 2006.  Meat Safety for the Consumer, University of Illinois Extension. 

USDA Fact Sheets "Safe Food Handling"

Susan Brewer, Ph.D., University of Illinois, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition


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