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The Best (Surprising) Items to Keep in Your Freezer

While you probably use your trusty freezer to store ice cream and hard liquor (what a pair), you might want to consider using it for a few more staples that will make cooking up some of your favorite foods that much easier. Freezing can prolong the freshness of certain foods and make your go-to meals ready to cook the minute the craving hits. Check out some of our Test Kitchen’s must-freeze foods below:

Flour

No, keeping flour in the freezer will not make your baked goods cold… but it will help your flour last much longer! There are natural oils in ground wheat that, once you’ve opened your bag of flour and left it in your pantry, will eventually begin to spoil. Freezing prolongs the integrity of your (ground) grain, keeping it fresh longer. Transfer your flour to an airtight container, and keep it in there for up to two years (if you can keep yourself from making batches of cookies for that long).

Bread

Just as flour is better preserved in the freezer, for the same reason, so is bread. While almost nothing beats bread fresh out of the oven, you can prolong the fresh flavor and texture of your bread by keeping it cold. Slice your bread, then keep it wrapped in an airtight container. When you’re ready for some toast, just put directly into the oven or toaster.

Smoothies

Smoothie-lovers of the world: Stop buying your daily drink! Keeping your smoothie ingredients in bags in your freezer will make it all too easy to DIY. No measuring or cutting required when it’s time to blend and go (plus, you can add in as much peanut butter as you want without judgment). Here’s our favorite, simple recipe:

INGREDIENTS
3 bananas
1 pint strawberries
1 pint blueberries or raspberries
2 peaches

INSTRUCTIONS
Peel bananas and cut into ½-inch slices. De-stem strawberries and halve. Slice peaches into ½-inch wedges, discarding pits. Combine all fruit in ziplock bags, making sure to press out air before sealing well. Transfer to freezer.

When ready to use, scoop two cups of fruit into a blender and add 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or almond milk, and a pinch cinnamon if desired. Blend until smooth, and enjoy your ready-made smoothie!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Want to win the host of the year award? Have warm, homemade chocolate chip cookies in about the time it takes for guests to clear their plates. Create homemade slice-n’-bake cookies by rolling dough into a log and keeping it in your freezer. Whenever the cookie craving strikes, make cookies and milk for one, or end your dinner party in style with everyone’s favorite sweet. Check out this recipe from the Plated Cookbook:

INGREDIENTS
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups AP flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ cups semisweet mini chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat the vanilla, whole egg, and egg yolk into the butter-sugar mixture until light and creamy. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just blended, taking care not to overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Dust a surface with more flour and turn out dough onto surface. Using your hands, form dough into 2 logs, 2-3 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, place in a large ziploc bag and press out all the air. Seal well and transfer to the freezer.

When ready to use, slice off ¼-1/2 -inch slices and place onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden and set, 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool slightly before eating!

Compound Butter

Compound butter is a culinary secret for making almost any dish one notch more delicious. By infusing your butter with flavor before you cook with it, you’ll be able to create serious depth with anything from seared steak to warm muffins. Below is our savory, Italian-inspired version with shallot, parsley, and orange, but the flavor combinations are endless: Think cinnamon-sugar, honey-maple, rosemary-thyme, sea salt and pepper… just swap in your favorites, mix in with your softened butter, and store in the freezer for easy slicing.

INGREDIENTS
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 shallot
6–8 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley
Zest of 2 oranges
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS
Allow butter to soften at room temperature until very soft. Meanwhile, peel shallot and mince. Finely chop parsley leaves. Add shallot, parsley, orange zest, salt, and pepper to bowl with butter and stir to mix well and thoroughly combine. Place butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll into a plastic-wrapped log, about 1-inch thick. Twist ends of plastic wrap to seal tightly. Place in freezer.

When ready to use, slice off coins of butter. Melt pats of butter on warm steak as it rests, or let butter warm to room temperature and rub underneath chicken or turkey skin before roasting, or slather over fish before roasting. You can also let it soften at room temperature and serve with muffin, scones, or toast.

Tomato Sauce

Homemade tomato sauce is light-years better than what you’d find in your local supermarket, with more acidity, sweetness, and brightness. It’s incredibly easy to whip up—and then even easier to defrost and use in just about any recipe. Pro tip: Make fresh tomato sauce in summer and break it out a few months after tomato season has long gone. This recipe from the Plated Cookbook is a perfect way to start experimenting:

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 sprig basil, plus ¼ cup leaves

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Smash garlic using the flat side of a knife. Once oil is shimmering, add garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and basil sprig, stir to combine, and simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Remove and discard basil sprig and garlic cloves. Remove from heat. Stir in basil leaves and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Allow to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight-container (or ice-cube tray!).

When ready to use, allow to defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or run hot water around the edges of the container to loosen the sauce and pour into a pot. Heat and use as usual! Toss with pasta, top a pizza, or use to braise chicken or fish.

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