Emulsions such as cream, mayonnaise and milk do not freeze well, as they are often damaged by the freezing process and may result in curdling or the separation of the two liquids.
Other items that do not freeze well are foods that contain cream or custard such as cream or custard cakes, trifles and tarts. However, heavy creams that contain over 40% fat do freeze well.
Likewise, many fruits and vegetables with a high water content do not freeze well, and the change in their texture is extremely noticeable on thawing. Examples include lettuce, celery, radishes, strawberries, melon, cucumber and cabbage, and these foods are not usually frozen at all.
On the other hand, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, corn and pulses including lentils, dried beans, peas and chickpeas freeze much better and there is little change to their texture when defrosted.
If preparing foods that will be placed directly into the freezer and eaten another day, it is important to remember that all types of flavouring and seasoning will intensify during the time spent in frozen conditions. Therefore, it is best to leave the seasoning (salt, pepper, spices) until the food item has been defrosted and reheated or use sparingly and add more when you are ready to prepare the meal.
Foods such as macaroni cheese or lasagne, which contain some form of liquid, will thicken during the freezing process. For this reason, you should prepare the dish with more liquid than usual if it will be going directly to the freezer.
It is best not to freeze foods that contain gelatine, as they do not turn out very well and if possible use arrowroot to thicken food intended for the freezer instead of cornflour or flour, as foods thickened with arrowroot are perfect for freezing.
Meat, poultry and fish
All kinds of raw or cooked meat, poultry, game, fish and seafood can be frozen with little change in structure, freshness and nutrients when defrosted.
Obviously, the longer a product is stored in the freezer, the lesser its quality will be on thawing.
Even so, a raw product will fare better in the freezer than a cooked one, as much needed moisture has already been lost through the cooking process.
Can you freeze fruit and vegetables?
Freezing is a wonderful method of preservation for many fruits and vegetables. Most frozen foods companies are able to pick or harvest vegetables and flash freeze them within hours, thus retaining all of the nutrients, freshness, texture, colour and aroma of the naturally fresh product. Nowadays, it is often thought that certain frozen vegetables are of better quality than some "supposedly" fresh vegetables, which lose valuable nutrients, freshness and quality after travelling hundreds or even thousands of miles before ending up at their destination.
If you are lucky enough to have access to locally grown fresh produce, freezing is a great way of preserving fresh fruit and vegetables that are seasonal and only available for a few months of the year. As fruit and vegetables generally keep for around 6-8 months in the freezer, this means that you can have summer fruits and vegetables, that have been picked at their most juiciest, plump and flavoursome, in the winter and winter fruits and vegetables, picked at their prime, in the heat of the summer.
Breads, pastries and baked goods
All types of bread freeze really well, whether they are already baked or unbaked, sliced or whole, brown or white. This also includes buns, bagels and baps.
Bread keeps for around three months in the freezer; however, it doesn't always emerge in the best shape after this amount of time. Thankfully, there are ways to make sure that your bread comes out of the freezer just as soft and fresh as when it went in.
The main thing is not to let any air or moisture in or any moisture out, as this will cause freezer burn. Wrap bread carefully in foil, paper towels or freezer bags.
Baked and unbaked sweet or savoury pies freeze well, as do homemade cakes, biscuits and muffins.
Can you freeze butter?
Although milk, cream and soft cheeses do not freeze well at all, butter can be frozen for up to 8 months without any change in texture. Wrap butter in its original wrapper and try to use as quickly as possible for the best results.
Soups, sauces, stews and stocks (Details on how to freeze follow further on in the article)
These items freeze extremely well, so long as they don't contain cream, sour cream, egg or mayonnaise. Tomato sauces for pasta are probably the best. Also sauces that have been thickened with flour or cornstarch tend to separate and come out worse for the wear. However, stock-based sauces or sauces that have been thickened with arrowroot or tapioca manage to survive the freezing process quite well.
Can you freeze eggs?
Believe it or not, eggs can be stored in the freezer perfectly well under certain conditions for up to 9 months. Never freeze eggs in their shells, as they will burst but store them cracked open in airtight containers for the best results.
Raw egg whites and yolks freeze well, as do cooked egg yolks; however, you might want to think again before freezing cooked egg whites.
Can you freeze herbs?
Herbs can be frozen for several months. They will lose their texture, becoming soggy and limp, yet their flavour and nutrients are retained. This means that they will be perfect for soups, stews, sauces and generally most cooked dishes but not for garnishes.
Herbs that freeze particularly well are basil, dill, mint, oregano, sage, lemongrass, chives, tarragon, rosemary and thyme.
Can you freeze pasta and rice?
Pasta can be frozen, although as it doesn't take very long to cook, it is probably better to cook it when needed from the packet. However, large baked pasta dishes such as lasagne or cannelloni do freeze well and can be stored for 2 - 3 months in the freezer.
Baked pasta dishes are best if frozen before cooking, but leftovers do just as well if tightly wrapped before placing in the freezer.
Rice also does well frozen with little if any change in texture on defrosting. The good thing about rice is that is can be reheated very quickly in the microwave, which is great if you are in a hurry and don't have time to cook that day.