9 Things You Need to Know Before You Freeze Food for Yom Tov
Adapted from an article originally printed in Family Table by Mishpacha Magazine
Freezing is a way to preserve food, preventing bacterial growth, so it lasts longer. It can be a convenient way to prep food so it’s ready to stick in the oven, or to save extra chicken when you find a really good price at the supermarket. In the process, however, freezing can cause fresh food to wilt and become watery or soggy. Just think about what would happen if you freeze fresh spinach (which you can do, by the way, if your spinach is starting to get old).
Most of us don’t have time to cook everything from scratch on erev Yom Tov and rely on cooking in advance and freezing our meals. Here are a few tips to make sure your frozen foods will still be fabulous and fit for your Yom Tov table:
- Any recipe that calls for the dish to be covered during cooking can be frozen. Don’t freeze anything that wouldn’t taste good mushy. For example, I wouldn't freeze schnitzel that has been fried because it’s best when it’s crispy.
- Here’s a workaround for foods that won’t freeze well: prep the dish in advance and freeze it in parts, and assemble and bake right before Yom Tov. I do this with a potato galette my family likes—I freeze the dough, the sauce, and the potatoes each separately. Putting it together before Yom Tov is simple enough. This works well with vegetables in a sauce, like green beans—you can prepare the dish (sauté onions, make the sauce) without cooking the string beans, freeze, and add the string beans right before Yom Tov.
- Foods cooked in a lot of sauce freeze well, for example, liver in a sauce, sweet and sour tongue, meats with a heavy sauce, etc.
- Many soups, like chicken soup, will freeze very well, but freezing will ruin the texture of a creamy soup, like blended soups. You can, however, freeze the soup before blending, then defrost and blend closer to Yom Tov. If your recipe calls for pareve milk or creamer, better to add it to the soup after it’s defrosted.
- You can freeze anything that will be baked before it's baked, including kugels, pie crusts, knishes, cakes and cookies. The food will taste and look fresher if you cook it closer to its serving time. It’s usually better to thaw the food in the fridge and only cook it once it’s completely thawed. This gives you more control over the baking or cooking process. If you bake a still-frozen food, you risk browning the top later before the center even thaws out, resulting in a half-cooked, far-from-delicious dish.
- You can prepare chicken dishes completely and freeze raw, which can be a huge timesaver. There is a common misconception about refreezing thawed food. You can actually defrost and refreeze raw meat and poultry as long as you thawed them in the refrigerator and they haven’t been out of the fridge for more than two hours. (If the food’s sitting out somewhere very hot—over 90 degrees Fahrenheit—only refreeze it if it’s been out less than one hour.)
- For best results, freeze food in heavy-duty resealable zipper bags that are made for freezing. If you have to use aluminum foil, stick with heavy-duty; make sure to wrap evenly and completely. Covering a container with a layer of saran wrap sometimes helps prevent freezer burn.
- Freeze foods the way you plan to serve them. For example, portion out specific serving sizes into pans for different meals.
- Don’t forget – label, label, label! (I love my sharpie.) Clearly write the name of the food and the date.