Batch cooking and freezing
You may not always have time to cook a meal from scratch on busy weekdays, but what’s the alternative? Set aside a couple of spare hours on a weekend to batch cook and you’ll have dinner for the week ahead sorted. If you’ve been thinking about doing it, now’s the time to start! Here’s some useful advice…
What sort of things are good for batch cooking?
In general, dishes such as casseroles, stews, curries, soups and pasta sauces are all ideal for freezing, while foods containing starchy carbs like rice and pasta, fruit and vegetables with a high water content, eggs and soft cheese do not freeze well.
Planning and shopping
- Make a plan – figure out what you’re going to cook and what ingredients you’ll need.
- Make a shopping list and shop for everything all at once.
- Check your pantry first to make sure you’ve got all those staples you’ll need, like rice, dried herbs and spices and canned tomatoes.
- Clear out your freezer beforehand so you’ll have enough room to store your batch-cooked food.
What you'll need
Plastic sealable containers or freezer bags are ideal. If you have microwave-safe containers, you can reheat the food in the same container you’ve frozen it in. Zip-lock freezer bags are great for freezing things in individual portions – consider buying reusable silicone ones that can be washed out and used over and over again.
Let foods come to room temperature before freezing, then put them into containers or bags and freeze them straight away. If you’re using freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as you can to help avoid freezer burn and save space in the freezer. Label everything clearly with the recipe name and date of freezing and the portion size. You might want to freeze some single-serve portions, or bigger portions for the whole family – freezing in individual portions helps you avoid waste and makes defrosting times shorter. Don’t forget what you’ve got in the freezer. Keep an inventory, or regularly check your freezer to remind yourself what you’ve got in there.
Defrosting food completely before reheating it means that it will reheat more quickly and evenly. It's best to defrost food in the fridge (put it on the bottom shelf) – never leave food out of the fridge to defrost. If you're in a hurry, you can reheat directly from frozen.
When reheating, make sure that food is steaming hot throughout. Soups, stews and casseroles should come to a rolling boil. Microwaves don’t heat food evenly, so give the food a good stir a couple of times during reheating to ensure all the food is heated properly.
How long can I freeze food for?
In theory, food can be safely frozen indefinitely, but long-term freezing can affect the flavour and texture of foods and lead to freezer burn. Up to 3 months is good general rule to follow.