Placement of unfrozen food in the freezer, details on rotating items and fast freezing.
Once your prepared food is ready to be introduced into the freezer (cooled, packaged and labelled) or you have a number of items that you have purchased from the supermarket for freezer storage, the following is very important and useful for optimum results upon defrosting and later preparation.
Introducing foods into the freezer
It is very important that foods introduced into the freezer are frozen as quickly as possible, so that product quality is maintained throughout the freezing process and once the product is then later defrosted.
Fast freezing produces smaller ice crystals within the frozen product. Larger ice crystals will cause food cell walls to expand, which results in a "mushy" and poorer quality item upon defrosting.
"Fast freeze" button
Many freezers nowadays have a "fast freeze" button. This lowers the temperature of the freezer, so that when a large amount of unfrozen food is introduced the temperature stays cold and does not rise too much.
If the temperature of your freezer is not reduced and a large amount of food is placed into the freezer, it will take longer to freeze, resulting in the formation of large ice crystals and possible food spoilage.
Therefore, when you have a number of large items to freeze, such as several joints of meat, use the "fast freeze" button, activating it several hours before you introduce the items and leave it on for several hours after to ensure that the products freeze quickly.
For only a few items (up to 1 kg/2 lb) of unfrozen goods, it is not necessary to use the "fast freeze" button, as the freezer is able to cope with smaller amounts.
If you do not have a "fast freeze" button option on your freezer, set the temperature to -10°F (-23°C) or lower before you introduce the items and then return the temperature to its usual temperature once all of the items are completely frozen.
For foods that are already frozen, it is not necessary to use the "fast freeze" option.
How many items can I freeze at one time?
Too many unfrozen items being placed into your freezer will cause the internal temperature of the freezer to rise and consequently slow down the freezing process.
It is recommended that you only freeze 1/10 of your freezers capacity or 2 - 3 lb / ft3 at once within a period of 24 hours. This is the maximum amount that your freezer will be able to cope with at one given time and it is also quicker and more energy efficient to freeze food this way.
Where is the best place to store unfrozen items in the freezer?
When introducing new items it is important that they are immediately placed in the coldest part of the freezer, so that they can then freeze as quickly as possible.
Depending on which type of freezer you have, the coldest area in an upright freezer is usually at the top, whilst in a chest freezer it is on the compressor step or on the bottom or floor of the freezer.
Do not put unfrozen packages next to each other if possible - try to space unfrozen products between items that are already frozen in the freezer.
When you introduce a new item into the freezer, try to leave a space around the item for cold air to circulate, as this will help it to freeze quicker.
Once items are completely frozen, you may then move them to other parts of the freezer, especially if you have divided your freezer into areas for certain types of food.
How full should my freezer be kept?
Freezers should be kept as full as possible at all times with frozen items, which incidentally is the opposite to refrigerators, which should not be too crowded, as this will affect the air circulation inside.
A big empty freezer is not very energy efficient at all and can be quite costly, as large freezers with only a few products inside require more electricity to keep them cold. For this reason, try to keep your freezer packed with items or as full as possible for you to be able to manage your way around it - remember also that keeping the freezer door open for too long is also costly.
First in first out policy
If you have a large freezer that is stacked full of frozen items, unless you have some sort of order, it will be easy to loose track of how long certain items have been there and what needs to be eaten when.
For this reason, it is advisable to keep an inventory, which could be a page inside a small notebook kept by the freezer, to record the date on which items were frozen and when they should be consumed by - basically a copy of the label placed on the item before freezing.
If you do this, it is easy to stick to the recommended "first in first out" policy, whereby the first foods to be frozen within a single category should be the first ones to be consumed.
It is also a good idea to "sort out" your freezer every six months just to make sure that nothing has been left in there for too long and to check that the items that appear on your list are the items that are actually inside your freezer.
Organize your freezer into sections
Organizing your freezer into sections for different types of foods will help to save a lot of time and energy, as you will not have to waste time hunting around for a particular item that you thought you placed in one area of the freezer.
You can divide your freezer with baskets, wire racks or shelves and separate meat, from fish and poultry, sweet from savoury and sauces from soups. This should make for a very happy and stress free freezer experience!