Frozen Food: Everything You Should Know

31 January, 2021
Freezing food extends its useful life, although it can also have an impact on its organoleptic qualities.

What should you know about frozen food? Freezing food is one conservation method that allows you to slow down the decomposition rate, lengthening its useful life. Watch out though – freezing only stops further deterioration, it can’t correct it.

Freezing food quickly generates smaller ice crystals and helps to maintain the product’s cellular structure. In that respect, foods that have been correctly frozen may be an option that you can include in your weekly shop and in the kitchen. Let’s have a more in-depth look.

What are the disadvantages of slow freezing?

Both freezing the product slowly and subjecting it to fluctuating temperatures in storage causes large crystals to form. This happens because it extracts the water that’s bonded to the proteins in these foods, as this 2016 article confirms.

Here, we’re talking about a water content that isn’t possible to recuperate during the defrosting process, as it alters the texture of the food and its nutritional value. In turn, this lost liquid can drag the hydrosoluble nutrients – like some vitamins – with it.

Vegetables in clear bags in the freezer.
Food can suffer certain alterations when frozen slowly. In many cases, it can also change its texture and alter its nutritious value.

Does freezing food change the nutritional properties?

No. Industrially ultra-frozen vegetables maintain the nutritional properties of fresh vegetables, given that the pickers process them quickly after harvesting, which is their optimal time.

In this regard, the vitamins are lost through heat, not through cold temperatures. In turn, when cutting and subsequently washing the foods, or boiling them in water, you can spoil the minerals.

The micronutrients of foods will remain intact as and when we freeze them before cooking. The loss of nutrients due to handling, cooking, and processing prior to freezing is irreversible.

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In that case, can I freeze any food?

You can freeze almost everything. Nevertheless, sometimes this will alter the textures, smells, and some tastes a bit, which is why we don’t recommend you do this for everything. For example:

  • Meat can last between 3 and 12 months, but not more.
  • Cold cuts will last between 1 and 2 months.
  • Oily fish will last at least 3 months.
  • Bread, between 3 and 6 months.
  • Soups, approximately 60 days.
  • Butter, between 3 and 6 months at the most.

This doesn’t mean you’re wrong to think this process advantageous when it comes to prepping for your weekly meals. In a similar vein, it can lead to a healthy and balanced diet within the busy schedules we sometimes follow.

Frozen Food: Everything You Should Know; woman standing in front of fridge thinking about what to eat
You can freeze almost every food. However, you should bear in mind that the texture and taste of many will change a lot.

4 basic rules about frozen food

  • Don’t refreeze something that has been defrosted. Repeating this process will harm the food’s quality.
  • Use suitable containers that keep the food separate from others when freezing, since “an impenetrable container is indispensable when it comes to protecting the food from dehydration, oxidization, and the transmission of smells“. Impenetrable glass containers are your best bet.
  • The fact that there are drawings on the drawers in the freezer can also be useful; the divisions help to keep the foods separate to ensure that there’s no cross-contamination whilst it freezes. Use them; it’ll be a lot easier to identify food in a well-organized freezer. Another good option to identify your frozen products is to use labels.
  • Follow your freezer’s instructions and ensure that the temperature is at least -20ºF throughout the process.
  • If you freeze a cooked dish, remember to defrost it bit by bit, moving it from the freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to consume it. Defrosting food at room temperature can increase the risk of contamination, according to a study published in Food Research International.

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Eating frozen food

Freezing is a good preservation method for your food since it prevents your food from decomposing prematurely. However, you should take the fact that it can cause changes to the texture and taste into consideration. As long as you freeze the product before cooking it, the food will keep its properties. Nevertheless, you have to follow some rules to ensure this preservation method is safe!

  • Kaale LD, Eikevik TM. Changes of proteins during superchilled storage of Atlantic salmon muscle (Salmo salar). J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(1):441–450. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-1979-9
  • Titze Hessel C., Oliveira Elias S., Pedro Pessoa J., Mariano Zanin L., et al., Food safety behavior and handling practices during purchase, preparation, storage and consumption of chicken meat and eggs. Food Res Int, 2019.