/ Food & Drink, Home & Energy

To freeze or not to freeze? Your freezer myths busted

Ever wondered what you can and can’t freeze? When we opened up the debate on Which? Conversation, you had tons of suggestions – so we investigated some common freezing myths to separate fact from fiction.

Freezing food until you’re ready to eat it is one of the best ways of cutting your grocery bills and minimising the amount of food you throw away.

But if you’ve ever questioned whether it’s safe to eat the age-old tub of leftovers you’ve found at the bottom of your freezer, you’re not alone.

Freezer myths busted

There’s plenty of advice and hearsay around – from government guidelines to your grandmother’s sworn-by methods. With the help of Which? nutritionist and food expert Shefalee Loth and microbiologists at the Food Standards Agency, we got to the bottom of some common freezing myths:

1. Freezing food kills bacteria: False. Freezing food doesn’t kill all bacteria. Some are dormant during freezing, but can multiply as food gets warmer when it’s defrosting.

2. Frozen food keeps forever: True. Food can be safely frozen indefinitely. However, the taste and texture may deteriorate over time.

3. You can’t freeze or defrost rice: False. Rice can be safely frozen and reheated, as long as it’s cooled quickly after cooking – ideally within an hour. You can reheat frozen rice in the microwave until it’s piping hot. Don’t freeze take-away rice though, as you never know how long it’s been left out at room temperature.

4. Frozen fruit and veg contain fewer nutrients than fresh: False. Nutrients start to leak out of fruit and veg as soon as it’s picked. Commercially frozen produce is often harvested and frozen within hours, helping seal vitamins inside, whereas fresh fruit and veg can spend days in storage, transport and lingering on supermarket shelves.

Our food-freezing checklist

So here’s our safe freezing and defrosting checklist to help you navigate the freezing minefield:

  • Make sure your freezer is running at -18°C or lower.
  • Freeze hot food as soon as it’s cooled, ideally one to two hours after cooking.
  • Wrap food well or keep it in air-tight containers to prevent freezer burn (where air dehydrates food, affecting its taste and appearance).
  • Never re-freeze defrosted raw meat or fish unless you cook it first.
  • Make sure food has defrosted all of the may through before you cook and eat it.
  • Defrosted food will spoil in the same way as if it were fresh – try and eat within two days.

Your freezing tips

We asked you to share your food-freezing experiences in a previous Convo, and we were flooded with useful tips and suggestions. Commenter Sue said she never throws food out:

‘Leftovers are frozen for later. I make bread in my breadmaker, then cut it in half and freeze the halves. I freeze chopped leftover herbs – coriander, parsley and dill. I don’t freeze leafy vegetables apart from spinach – they never seem to be as good.’

Gogsy27 championed air-tight bags:

‘Meat lasts for ages in air-tight bags. Suck the air out of larger bags before tying them. Frozen veg – green beans, peas etc – are great in pasta dishes. Far cheaper than buying and wasting – just put in as much as needed towards end of pasta cooking!’

Lots of commenters agreed that stews and curries can taste better after they’ve been frozen for a while. According to Tilly:

‘Anything seasoned or spiced takes on a stronger flavour when frozen. No idea why, but the frozen stuff is always stronger tasting after defrosting and cooking!’

So it seems that plenty of people freeze all sorts of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables for months, and found that it tastes just as good as the day it was frozen. But what about the food that tastes awful once it’s been defrosted? Have you found any foods that you just can’t trust to the humble freezer?

Karen Perkins says:
24 May 2015

Re: Fast cooling of cooked rice!
Why not put the rice into a container and then place the container (uncovered) into a larger one filled with icy water? A handful of ice cubes will help to cool it quickly!

can I store frozen raw fish on top of other non fish products

Can I eat a pie that’s says not suitable for freezing if I defrost throughly and cook well didn’t notice till I checked after in the freezer

vincent higgins says:
28 June 2017

i did same with pulled pork,now defrosted,but don’t know if safe to heat and eat

Freezing foods marked as unsuitable for freezing will not affect safety. The quality (e.g. taste and texture) might not be very good, but that depends very much on the the product.

When cooking any food from frozen it’s vital make sure that it is heated properly so that it’s not cool inside, yet cooked on the outside. One solution is to cover the food and let it defrost in the fridge and check that it is piping hot inside after cooking.

Jacko says:
12 January 2018

I am contemplating buying a vacuum sealing device for packing food for the freezer, but there is a bewildering choice of them. Is which? likely to review any in the near future?