16 Frozen Foods That Last A Surprisingly Long Time
The modern freezer may be a relatively recent invention by humankind, only beginning to become popular around the middle of the 20th century. According to Live Science, the "Chinese cut and stored ice around 1000 B.C." and then "500 years later, the Egyptians and Indians learned to leave earthenware pots out during cold nights to make ice." There are also mentions that other civilizations, like the Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews, would keep snow insulated in pits.
Keeping food cold or frozen has long been considered an important and necessary method. Modern-day freezers are not only vital in maintaining our foods ice cold but also in keeping items fresher for far longer than their natural lifespan. The process of freezing food keeps it from perishing by stopping any activity from microbes and slowing down enzymes that can cause food to deteriorate.
Exactly how long food can last, however, is a bit of a murky question. It's a little bit harder to discern when a piece of frozen food is past its prime than it is to tell when a room-temperature item isn't fresh anymore.
Of all the freezer foods, frozen vegetables are one of the most popular choices. After all, there are some types of vegetables out there, like peas, corn, edamame beans, and okra, that are just too fiddly to prepare from fresh or difficult to find in their raw form in stores.
When frozen, many types of vegetables can last up to a year before they pass their prime. This is true whether you buy them from the store or prepare them at home by blanching them.
If you're doing the latter, performing the blanching process correctly is super important. To blanch your vegetables, simply scald them in boiling water or steam for a few moments and then cool them down with ice-cold water. By blanching your vegetables, you halt any enzyme activity that could cause your vegetables to go bad in your freezer.
It's also worth remembering that freshness for up to a year isn't necessarily guaranteed. There are a lot of variables, including the storage method you use, how cold your freezer is, and how frequently you take the vegetables out.
By placing your chicken, beef, or lamb cuts in your freezer, you can extend their lifespan significantly. It's natural to get worried about food safety when it comes to meat, possibly leading to things being thrown out before they need to be.
What might surprise you is that many cuts of meat can last for up to a year in the freezer, with uncooked meat generally lasting longer than cooked items. Generally speaking, the larger a piece of meat is, the longer it will last.
Whole chickens or turkeys, for example, will be good for a year once frozen, provided they are stored well. Beef, lamb, and pork roasts may also last about a year, with steaks and chops also faring well. Smaller cuts of meat and ground meat will usually not last as long, but ground meat can still stay fresh for up to four months.
With meat, it's important to watch out for freezer burn. Meat can carry a lot of moisture, and when it makes its way to its surface and evaporates, the food dehydrates and won't cook properly. Avoid this by wrapping your food up well, ideally in wax paper, and if you can, vacuum-sealing your meat to avoid contact with the cold freezer air.
As a hot drink, coffee doesn't seem like the most natural partner for your super-cold freezer. But utilizing your deep freeze can be an amazing way to prolong the life and quality of your product. Despite being hard and dry, coffee beans are natural products and have a relatively short period before they start to lose their flavor. Roasted coffee beans are especially susceptible to deterioration, developing an increasingly stale, dull taste the longer they sit out.
Freezing coffee beans lets you lock that flavor in, slowing down the chemical processes. Overall, coffee beans can stay fresh for months when frozen and may be just as good if you're using them for up to a year after stashing them away.
The key to storing frozen coffee beans correctly is to decant them into an airtight container and, ideally, fill said container up as much as possible to further limit the air contact that the beans are exposed to. By grinding frozen coffee beans, you can get way more of a uniform end result — it will bring out the natural sweetness and notes of your product.
It's no exaggeration to say that raw seafood doesn't stay fresh for very long. Anyone who's brought home a bag of fresh shrimp, or a few raw fish fillets, knows there's a relatively short window before that succulent, sprightly seafood turns rotten-smelling and potentially dangerous.
The good news is that fish and other seafood store extremely well when frozen. Like meat, they're able to last for a very long time before they start to deteriorate. Generally, raw fish and shellfish last the longest shelf life in the freezer — the leaner the meat is, the longer it can keep.
Fillets of lean fish like cod, pollock, halibut, haddock, and ocean perch can stay fresh for up to eight months in the freezer. Some shellfish can last way longer, and when kept properly, squid, crayfish, and shrimp can be usable for up to 18 months.
As with anything, though, the manner in which you freeze your seafood will affect how long it stays fresh. While vacuum sealing is best, you can also improvise using freezer bags. "Place your fish inside a freezer Ziploc-bag, then seal the bag, leaving just the last inch or so of the seal open," explains the Institute of Culinary Education's director of culinary affairs Herve Malivert, via Southern Living. "Next, lower the bag into a pot of cold water [and] as the bag gets lowered, water pressure will push air out of the bag through the small opening. Seal fully."
The frozen french fry is truly a thing of beauty. This convenient product was pioneered by the Simplot Company in the late 1940s when the Idaho-based business figured out its method for getting frozen potatoes into the freezers of millions of Americans. The Simplot Company later became the sole provider of frozen french fries to none other than McDonald's, but there was no longer any need to head to the drive-thru to enjoy this food product — and nowadays, frozen french fries last longer than ever, staying fresh in your freezer for up to a year.
Frozen French fries are able to keep so well in the deep freeze because they're often either fully cooked or partly cooked. These little pieces of potato are generally blanched as part of the production line process before being flash-frozen. When potatoes are frozen raw, they have a tendency to disintegrate when you try and cook them because of the high water content they have. Blanching them, however, helps to counteract this and alter their starchiness, keeping them robust.
Bread has an unfortunate knack for going bad pretty quickly. When left out in the open air, the starch molecules in bread flour, which become soft when combined with water, recrystallize, which causes the dough to go stale and hard. This process can occur even more quickly in the fridge, leaving you with a hard loaf. Luckily, in the colder temperatures that your freezer achieves, your bread can last for up to six months before it starts to go bad, provided that you store it well and keep it away from moisture and air exposure.
It's worth noting that this isn't a hard and fast rule: Different bread types will lose their quality at different speeds, and crustier loaves of bread, like baguettes, tend to lose their quality when you freeze them. Home-made bread tends not to last as long in the freezer, as it doesn't have the additional ingredients that bread manufacturers add to their products to keep it fresh. But you should still get a good few months out of it if popped in your freezer compartment. Ensure that your bread is well-protected before freezing it by first wrapping it in plastic wrap, waiting, of course, for it to get to room temperature if you've baked it at home, and then placing it in a Ziploc bag.
There's a lot to love about eggs. As well as providing ample amounts of nutritious protein, several B vitamins, and vitamin D, they're also able to stay fresh in your freezer for up to 12 months before they need eating up. Importantly, though, the sooner you use them the better-tasting they'll be. It's generally advisable to use your eggs way before the 12-month mark, to avoid any decline in quality.
Additionally, you can't just take your eggs out of the carton and put them in the freezer, shell and all. You need to prepare them properly first. Eggs need to be cracked and decanted into a different container, as freezing them will cause them to get larger, breaking the shell and potentially causing leakage. Once you've cracked them, too, they'll need a little extra preparation. Eggs either need to be separated or beaten together before freezing. If you're freezing just the egg yolks, you may also need to add a pinch of salt to them, to stop them from developing a tacky texture. You also need to defrost your eggs thoroughly before you cook and consume them.
Any self-respecting chef usually has a jar or two of tomato sauce on hand. This versatile kitchen staple serves as the base for an endless amount of dishes, and it's quick and easy to prepare. But if you're making tomato sauce, it can sometimes be tricky to nail the proportions so that you have just the right amount. Luckily, any leftovers can be kept in your freezer for a pretty long time.
Homemade tomato sauce or pasta sauce will generally keep for 6 months or so in your freezer. You can also eat it beyond that period, but just be warned that it may not taste as good. And if you end up with too much store-bought tomato sauce, well, that can be frozen in an airtight container too.
Unused tomato sauce will usually be at its best for up to six months after freezing it. It's important to remember that dairy-based sauces will not freeze as well, considering that cheese or cream can cause the sauce to split.
The positives of eating fruit are abundantly clear. As well as providing all-important vitamins and minerals, like potassium and vitamin C, fruit is also a source of dietary fiber. And while fresh fruit may spoil fast, frozen fruit stays edible for far beyond its short window of peak tastiness. Commercially-produced frozen fruit, which is usually flash frozen to lock in freshness, lasts especially long. In fact, an unopened bag can be good for up to 10 months beyond its sell-by date. Once you've opened the package, the window of time you have to eat it can go down somewhat, but you'll still be able to enjoy your fruit for six months or more before significant degradation.
While many might think frozen fruit is less nutritious than its fresh counterpart, that's not the case. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that frozen fruit items generally retain their vitamins just as well as fresh fruit, with no huge difference between the two.
As a food that's topped with all sorts of different ingredients, it would make sense to assume that pizza doesn't have a particularly long life in your freezer. After all, those toppings surely don't deteriorate at exactly the same rate, right? And can the base last that long?
Frozen pizza is actually one of the longest-lasting foods out there at sub-zero temperatures. In fact, some pies can remain just as fresh after 18 months in the freezer. Bear in mind, of course, that this is only the case with pizzas specifically designed for freezing and not fresh ones that you then freeze yourself.
The reason why frozen pizza can last so long is down to its manufacturing method. The bases are prebaked, helping them keep their shape. After being topped, the whole pizza is chilled to a seriously frosty negative 25.6 degrees Fahrenheit, perfectly locking in the freshness of the product. Each frozen pizza is then wrapped in airtight plastic wrap, preventing freezer burn and keeping everything ready to cook until you're hungry.
For such an iconic food item, cookies, as we know them today, are a relatively recent invention. The first chocolate chip cookies were created by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1937, who added chocolate pieces to her cookie dough at her Toll House Restaurant, later selling her recipe and the Toll House name to Nestlé. In doing so, she created a food item that would be replicated in countless kitchens every day.
But if you're not ready to bake the cookie dough, you've just whipped up, never fear: When wrapped properly, homemade cookie dough will last for approximately a year in your freezer. This largely depends on how you store it. The tighter it's wrapped, the more likely it is to avoid becoming dehydrated and inedible. Vacuum-sealing any leftover dough, or wrapping it up securely with wax paper or plastic wrap, will ensure that it avoids air contact. Store-bought cookie dough and naturally frozen cookie dough will also fare well in your freezer. Somewhat surprisingly, these commercially-made products don't have a significantly longer timespan when frozen than a freshly-made batch. You're still looking at around a year before it needs to be used up.
Chicken stock is one of those staple ingredients that pays off to have around. And while these days it's simple enough to boil a kettle and dissolve a cube to make instant stock, every now and again, you're going to want something a bit more fresh. So, if you've made chicken stock at home or recently purchased a container of it, we have good news: Freezing it will allow you to enjoy it for months.
While chicken stock tends to last only a few days in the fridge, in the freezer, it's a different matter. Frozen chicken stock can stay fresh for up to six months before it's past its prime. It's crucial to remember that it should only be frozen when it's fully cooled, as putting a hot stock in your freezer will melt everything around it.
If you've left any vegetables in your stock, this could also vary the time it remains fresh. Like any other food, chicken stock can go bad, and if it smells sour or has a cloudy, milky appearance, it could be time to pour it out.
There's a good reason why popsicles are so well-loved by kids: They were invented by one. When 11-year-old Frank Epperson combined soda powder with water and let it freeze overnight in 1905, he stumbled upon a summertime treat that would please generations of children — and that was perfect for long-term storage in the freezer.
These days, most popsicles can still be good to eat 12 months after you first brought them home from the store. This is more likely to be the case if they've been kept consistently at a low temperature throughout the year and not taken in and out of the freezer.
What the young Epperson might not have known, however, is exactly why popsicles are so good at staying fresh while frozen. It all comes down to their high sugar content, which stops ice being able to form large lumps in the food, altering its consistency. This allows the popsicles to maintain their texture and quality at sub-zero temperatures.
If you've ever bought too much butter for your fridge's capacity, your freezer can rescue you. Butter freezes excellently, especially if your freezer is very cold. A study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that stick butter can last for up to a year without any deterioration in quality or taste in freezers set to -20 degrees Celcius. Butter stored in larger forms could last even longer, with the researchers conducting the study noting that 4-kilogram blocks stayed fresh for up to 18 months.
Butter can be frozen in both salted and unsalted form. When freezing it, it's best to do it when the butter's unopened and in its original packaging to limit oxygen contact with the fat. Bear in mind, though, that while butter can last for a long time in the freezer, there may not be any need to freeze it in the first place. Butter maintains its freshness when refrigerated for a long time, with the Journal of Dairy Science study finding that sticks of butter kept their original taste for approximately six months in the fridge.
Making way too much rice is a common occurrence in the kitchen for a lot of folks. And if you weren't planning on a second rice-based dish soon after the first, this can pose a bit of an issue. Keeping rice at room temperature for too long, or in the fridge for more than a day, can cause it to develop bacteria that can lead to some pretty nasty food poisoning, according to the NHS.
But instead of piling those steaming mounds of rice into your trash, pile it into the freezer instead. The right way to do this would be to place your leftovers into an airtight bag like a Ziploc or container first. Rice freezes especially well once cooked and will stay good for roughly six months before it starts to lose its luster.
Before freezing it, you have to make sure it's completely cooled to room temperature and then further cooled in the fridge to avoid any excess moisture making its way into the grains. Then, make sure that you limit the amount of air in the container you're putting it in to limit the risk of the rice dehydrating.
Importantly, not all rice types freeze as well as others. Risotto can lose its quality pretty quickly when it's in the freezer, partly because when you reheat it, it breaks down considerably and becomes sludgy.
If you're not ready to cook the casserole you've just made, stash it in the freezer. Many casseroles freeze very well, with most of them looking at a six-month lifespan in the freezer before they start to deteriorate in quality. The density of most casseroles limits the amount of air that can get inside, meaning that they retain their flavor and texture excellently at sub-zero temperatures.
Before freezing your casserole, make sure that's it totally cool throughout; this may take longer than you think, and that the dish is fully covered with an airtight seal. You'll want to avoid adding any finishing touches to your casserole prior to freezing: Any herbs or breadcrumbs should be left off until it's cooked. Remember, while some casseroles can be frozen before you cook them, if you have any raw meat or seafood in yours, it's best to cook it fully and then freeze it. And it's also important to remember that not all casseroles will fare as well when frozen. Casseroles that contain high-fat dairy ingredients, like whole milk and ricotta cheese, can end up slightly grainy once defrosted, as the water and dairy fat in these items can separate, altering the dish's consistency.