4 Helpful Tips for Freezing Food

hedgehog94/iStock via Getty Images Plus
hedgehog94/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Freezing food is a great way to extend its shelf life. You can freeze individual ingredients or preserve entire meals that can be reheated quickly. Chef Frank Proto from the Institute of Culinary Education provided us some tips for freezing food safely.

1. To freeze most vegetables, cut them to size and then blanch.

Most vegetables (including broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) should be blanched first to preserve color and flavor. First, cut the vegetables to the size you’ll want to cook/serve later. Then, boil briefly in salted water—how long depends on the type of vegetable and the size of the pieces, but for the vegetables we've mentioned here, three minutes (or until tender) should do the trick. Next, drain the vegetables and immediately cool in an ice bath, which stops the cooking process. Drain again.

Before your vegetables get anywhere near the freezer, make sure they're dry: The less water your ingredients retain, the better they’ll hold up in the freezer and resist harmful freezer burn. You can use a salad spinner to remove water and/or pat individual pieces dry with paper towels.

Next, spread the individual pieces out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for around an hour. This will prevent them from turning into one big frozen clump in the freezer. Finally, store food in a freezer bag or airtight container, removing as much air as you can. You should only use plastic containers or tempered freezer-safe glass, like Pyrex.

How to Use After Freezing: Frozen vegetables can be used straight from the freezer. You may need to cook them slightly longer to get rid of any water they’ve retained, but they can be incorporated into stir-fries, soups, and other dishes quite successfully.

2. Skip blanching for tender vegetables and fruits.

Tender greens like spinach can be frozen without blanching. Bell peppers and sliced or diced onions can, too—just clean and dry them as well as possible. Fruits can be frozen raw as well. Just spread them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and “pre-freeze” to avoid clumping. Then bag them, removing as much air as you can.

How to Use After Freezing: Fruits can be eaten or thrown into smoothies still frozen, or defrosted for a snack. You don’t want to defrost and then refreeze, though, so take out only the amount you’ll want to eat in one sitting.

3. Make sure soups and stews are cool before freezing.

Placing hot items in the freezer can raise the ambient temperature, which can cause issues like freezer burn if it leads to items unfreezing and refreezing—so let cooked soups and stews cool before placing them in the freezer.

For maximum safety, you want to cool the food as quickly as possible so it spends a minimal amount of time in the “danger zone” of temperature where bacteria can grow. To do this, you can divide hot items into smaller containers—more surface area means things will cool faster, so a flat freezer bag will cool faster than a deep pot or bowl.

You can also use an ice bath to quickly bring down the temperature of prepared foods. Fill the sink (or a large bowl) with cold water, add ice, and dip the entire cooking vessel into the cold water, making sure the water level doesn’t rise high enough to get into your food. Stirring the hot food inside the cold water bath will reduce its temperature much faster than sitting out at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

How to Use After Freezing: Prepared foods like soups and stews can be heated up in a pot right from the freezer. You may need to microwave them for a few seconds to release them from their containers—otherwise just heat in a pot until they reach serving temperature.

4. Wrap meats with plastic and foil before freezing.

Raw vacuum-sealed meat can be frozen as-is. Otherwise, wrap meat tightly with plastic wrap and foil. Don’t forget to label any items you won’t be able to identify later. Putting the dates on the foil will also help you remember what items are oldest, so you can use them first.

Chef Frank also recommends sticking your newest items deep into the freezer. This will freeze them faster, and will also encourage you to first use the older items that are up front in the freezer.

He also advises against packing your freezer too tightly. While modern freezers can be filled quite a bit, you still want to provide enough room for air to circulate—otherwise the back of the freezer will stay cold, while the front will get relatively warm quickly, especially if you’re repeatedly opening the freezer.

How to Use After Freezing: Frozen meat should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight. Large pieces of meat like a chicken may need two days in the fridge, while a large turkey could take three. The refrigerator provides a safer temperature for thawing compared to letting food sit out on the counter. If you need to speed up the process, you can run the frozen meat under cold water.

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

Never Got a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine as a Kid? You Can Still Buy One This Holiday Season

LUCKYPENNY VIA YOUTUBE
LUCKYPENNY VIA YOUTUBE

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even as toys have gotten more complex in recent decades, one low-tech item has held a perennial spot on holiday wishlists. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was a hit when it debuted in 1979, and kids and nostalgic adults can still get their hands on one this December.

People who grew up in the 1980s may remember commercials promoting the “yum-yum fun” plastic appliance. Like the Easy Bake Oven and the Frosty Sno-Man Sno-Cone Machine before it, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine allowed kids to make edible treats at home. The Peanuts branding made the toy popular with kids, and despite the elbow grease required to crank a couple of ice cubes into shaved ice, it's stuck around.

If you asked for a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine for the holidays as a kid and never received one, you can still make your childhood dreams come true. The retro product is available practically unchanged from how it appeared in the 1980s. The biggest changes are that the hand crank is now easier to turn and there's a clamp for stabilizing the machine while you use it. Get one for yourself or a loved one from Amazon today for $30.

Looking for more nostalgic gift ideas? Here are some items the Millennials in your life will love.