Yes, you can put frozen dinners, yogurt, and, well, ice, on ice. But did you know there are many more foods you can store in the freezer to extend their lives, cut down on food waste, and make quick-fix meals easier? Now, while not all foods are freezer-friendly and there are some you should keep far, far away from these cold temps, there are plenty of unsuspecting items you can safely freeze. There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re discovering what to put in the freezer, though.
As a general rule, avoid anything with a high water content if you plan to defrost before using, recommends Morgan Bolling, senior editor of Cook’s Country Magazine (a part of America’s Test Kitchen) in Boston, Massachusetts.
“The texture of ingredients like zucchini or berries will change significantly once frozen and thawed,” she says.
If your rosemary has gone rogue and taken over your pot or your parsley is particularly prolific, pick the leaves before they go brown and prepare them for the freezer.
“Place two tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary, sage, parsley, or thyme and water to cover (about 1 tablespoon) in each well of the ice cube tray and freeze. Then you can add cubes directly to sauces, soups, or stews,” Bolling says.
Or for an even bigger flavor boost, employ a liquid besides water, suggests Miles Mitchell, chief academic officer and corporate executive chef at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Chicago, Illinois.
“Extra fresh herbs work well frozen inside tomato paste or olive oil in an ice cube tray,” he says. Even less sturdy herbs can be frozen, too.
“Basil is often something you can have a bumper crop of in the garden, but something we rarely think to freeze,” says Ronnie Schwandt, executive chef at Maretalia and Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge in Coronado, California. “But if you pick the leaves and arrange in freezer bags, they’re easy go-tos in the middle of winter for your soup or sauces.”
Buy more butter than you can bake with this month? “Freeze butter in its wrapper,” Bolling says.
One day before you’re primed to preheat the oven for your next butter-filled recipe, transfer as many sticks as you need to the refrigerator to thaw.
“When stored in the refrigerator, butter can pick up off-flavors,” Bolling says. Keeping the wrapper on helps prevent this before and after freezing—and it eliminates the need for additional storage tools.
The frozen banana smoothie hack is a well-known one, and you can employ the same strategy for avocados as well.
“Just like with bananas, you can freeze avocados before they are too ripe and save them for smoothies,” Mitchell says. In addition, you can thaw icy avocados to blend into salad dressings or brownie batter.
Food manufacturers, including Welch’s, are even wising up to American’s avo-obsession and have started selling avocado in the freezer aisle, so you can avoid the “underripe or overripe?!” conundrum once and for all.
Save cloves before they sprout.