The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Tip for Freezing Foods

This Tip Really Sucks!

I have a quick tip to pass along. It's not original. In fact I can't remember whether I stole it from Alton Brown or Cook's Illustrated, but just in case you don't watch Alton or read Cook's, here it is.

Everybody knows – don't you? – that air is the main cause of freezer burn. And yet, 99.9% of people just toss fresh cuts of meat, leftovers, etc. into Ziploc bags and throw 'em in the freezer. A few weeks later, they take the food out only to find it has turned an unappetizing color and is covered in ice crystals.

What has occurred is that the water molecules in your food have made contact with the air trapped in the bag. Now, the water molecules are going to freeze anyway. That's the whole point of preserving food in the freezer. But they're supposed to stay inside the food. When your frozen food is improperly wrapped and air pockets are present in the storage bag, the frozen molecules make like Mel Gibson and yell “freeeeee-dommmmm” as they migrate out into all that air space, taking your food's precious moisture content with them. The result – commonly called “freezer burn” – is dry and nasty looking. Oh, it's generally okay to eat, but it's going to be dry and nasty looking and you aren't going to be at all thrilled with the taste or texture.

Proper wrapping is essential. Make sure every morsel you put in the freezer is wrapped as tightly as possible in either plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or freezer paper. Then place the tightly wrapped food in a freezer bag, making sure all the air is removed from the bag. I do this by closing all but an inch or so of the bag, then folding and pressing as much air out as possible.

Here's the tip: insert an ordinary drinking straw into the small opening in the bag's seal and close the seal around the straw. Now suck out whatever air remains in the bag, then quickly withdraw the straw and seal the bag. It's not going to be a perfect vacuum, but it'll be pretty close and your food will stand a much better chance of resisting freezer burn and staying fresher longer.

Oh, and don't forget to label and date your frozen food. Nothing lasts forever, even in the freezer. Refer to any one of a number of websites for information on the storage life of frozen foods. The USDA has one such site at

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