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More time spent at home and fewer opportunities to dine out means a lot more home-cooked meals. And if you've been stocking up more than usual due to less frequent trips to the grocery store amid the pandemic, you may find yourself with extra ingredients that are nearing their expiration dates.
1. Rewrap Meat Before Freezing
"You can freeze meat whether it's raw or cooked, but raw meat is going to freeze a little better and it's going to last longer — about 3 to 6 months," Melissa says. "When you get your meat home from the supermarket, take it out of the supermarket wrapper, because this wrapper is probably not airtight."
Rewrap your meat in a freezer bag or use a vacuum sealer if you have one.
2. Marinate Meat With Herbs & Spices While It's Thawing For More Flavor
"The best way to thaw frozen meat is overnight in the fridge, and it's going to thaw faster if you put it in smaller packages," Melissa says. She suggests wrapping things like chicken breasts, steaks or hamburger patties individually before freezing, so that they thaw evenly.
The food writer also has a clever double-duty hack for more flavorful meat: marinate it while it's thawing! Just put whatever you want to marinate your meat with, like lemon, herbs, garlic and salt, for example, right into the freezer bag with the meat and let it all sit in the fridge overnight.
"When you make the food the next day, it's going to taste amazing," she says.
3. Freeze Sauces Flat Using Quarter Sheet Pans To Save Space
Running out of room in your freezer? When it comes to freezing things like sauces, stews and soups, Melissa pours the liquid into a quarter sheet pan before freezing, then transfers it into an airtight bag once it's solid. That way, the sauce freezes flat and you can stack to your heart's content.
"That's a great trick for freezing veggies so they stay loose," Rachael adds. "If you put them on a flat pan, they all stay loosey-goosey so you can pick out a few at a time."
"Those [quarter sheet] pans have saved my life, so if you don't have one, everybody should go get one," Melissa says.
You know you can freeze meat and veggies, but did you know that you can also freeze dairy products? It's true! According to the food writer, you can freeze milk, heavy cream, certain kinds of cheeses, yogurt and cream cheese — especially if you're going to use them as ingredients for cooking or baking.
5. … And Freeze Them The Right Way
Heavy cream freezes really well, according to Melissa, because the high fat content allows it to stay together. When freezing regular milk, it can sometimes separate — but Melissa has a trick to fix this, too!
"Say that you've got some extra milk, you bought it on sale, you put it in your freezer. And you have defrosted it and you notice it looks kind of curdled even though it's not off, it's just separated," she says. "You just put it in your blender and you're going to re-emulsify it." Depending on how powerful your blender is, you shouldn't need to have it on for more than 10 seconds, according to the food writer.
"Worst comes to worst, use it for baking," she adds.
6. Know Which Cheese You Can Freeze
"I freeze my grated Parm all the time. Not my good Parm, not the good stuff, but the grated stuff that I'm going to use in cooking," Melissa says.
It's important to note that Melissa specifically freezes grated Parm, because as she also explains, most of the time hard cheeses do not freeze well.
You can successfully freeze soft cheeses like brie. Just defrost it and let come to room temperature before serving, and it will be smooth and gooey again.
7. Use An Ice Cube Tray To Separate & Freeze Eggs
"You can freeze whole eggs," Melissa says, "not in the shell — if you freeze eggs in the shell it's just going to burst. But what you can do if you want to freeze whole eggs is crack your egg and put it in a container."
Another good trick for separating eggs before freezing is to use an ice cube tray. Melissa likes to put the egg whites one one side and the egg yolks on the other.
8. Add Salt To Egg Yolks Before Freezing
"To the yolk, just add a little pinch of salt and stir that up. That way, you know when you defrost it that it's going to be smooth. If you just freeze it without doing the salt trick, it kind of gets gelled. The salt keeps things nice and liquid," she explains.
Once the individual egg whites and yolks are frozen, you can pop them out of the ice cube tray, put them in heavy duty plastic freezer bags, throw the bags back in the freezer and use the egg whites and yolks as needed.