Freezing and reheating meals are two key components of successful meal prepping. You cook the meals, you freeze the meals, you reheat the meals and you eat the meals. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.
There’s a fine art to freezing and reheating meal prep meals, and if you get it wrong, well, all your meal prep efforts will have gone to waste. The first thing to know is not all meals are freezer friendly. If you’ve ever reheated something that’s been frozen and it’s tasted bad, was dry (or wet), lacked in flavour or had a weird texture, chances are the meal was not made to be frozen.
But don’t worry, we’re here with our top tips on how to freeze and reheat meal prep so your long hours in the kitchen don’t go to waste. Let’s jump in!
|Foods you CAN freeze||Foods you SHOULDN’T freeze|
5 Tips for Freezing Meals
Here are five of our best tips for freezing meal prep food. It’s applicable to pretty much any meal you’ll ever freeze!
1. Let the Recipe Cool Completely
Always let the recipe cool completely to room temperature before closing the container and placing it in the freeze. If you close the lid and freeze straight away, there will be a condensation build up which can lead to freezer burn. Not to mention placing a hot dish in the freezer next to other frozen meals can semi-thaw those meals, which can ruin the quality of those foods.
2. Use a Freezer Friendly Container
Today’s freezer storage containers are typically made of glass, plastic, or silicone—each with pluses and minuses. Glass is an all-around good choice because it’s both oven and microwave safe. However, if you’re going to use glass, make sure it specifically says freezer safe or is tempered glass. And, whenever possible, pack food in small containers, because large portions in large containers freeze more slowly.
Read more: The best meal prep containers
3. Freeze in Individual Portions
Freeze meals in individual portions where possible. This not only speeds up freezing time, but it also speeds up defrosting time. Most importantly, it contributes to less food waste because you shouldn’t defrost something more than once, so if you freeze large servings and don’t eat it all once defrosted, this will be wasted. Try freezing in single or double portions so that the food remains fresh and you know once you take it out of the freezer it will be defrosted in time.
4. Let Out as Much Air as Possible
If you’re freezing items in a zip lock bag, and even a container, get out as much air as possible (harder said than done for a container). While you of course can’t let all the air out, getting out as much as possible will reduce freezer burn, which is a term for the moisture lost from frozen food. It’s what happens when food in the freezer loses moisture and begins to look discoloured or shrivelled.
5. Date/Label the Meal
Whatever you do, don’t forget to label the container with the item name and the date it was cooked. This will help you know how long it’s been left in the freezer so you can determine if it’s still safe to eat. It also helps you know what’s inside the container so you’re not left guessing (especially if it’s a coloured container!) You can simply use a piece of masking tape and a sharpie pen.
Freeze Times Quick Guide
For a quick guide to how long you can freeze something, check out this handy guide below. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but stick to it as close as possible if you want your meals to taste the best with their texture still intact.
|Soups||4 months max|
|Vegetables||6 months max|
|Raw Meat / Poultry||6 months max|
|Cooked Meat / Poultry||3 months max|
|Raw Fish||3 months max|
|Sauces||6 months max|
|Fruit||3 months max|
|Muffins||2 months max|
|Bread / pizza bases||6 months max|
|Pastries||2 months max|
Guide to Reheating Meals
Should you reheat in the oven or on the stovetop? Will the microwave do the trick? It can be hard to know the proper way to reheat meals, but we’ve got you covered below.
Pro tip: Take frozen meal prep out of the freezer the night before and let it thaw in the fridge. Don’t let it thaw at room temperature or in hot water as this can lead to food poisoning.
Foods to Reheat in the Microwave
Recipes cooked in a sauce or with liquid reheat will be in the microwave, which includes things like curries, soups and stews. Pasta, rice and stiry-fry’s are also good to go in the microwave. Also, anything that holds moisture is good to reheat in the microwave like baked goods, breakfast food and oatmeal.
How long to reheat in the microwave: Reheating time will depend on the food and how much there is. For individual portions, anywhere between 60 – 120 seconds should be OK, but we recommend stopping halfway and checking/stirring.
Foods to Reheat on the Cooktop
If the meal was cooked on the stove, chances are it’ll be best reheated on the stove. Generally, most things that can go in a microwave can be reheated on a stove, and if you can spare the extra time, using a stove is always better. Microwaves tend to heat unevenly, while the taste is better on the stove. The thing you want to avoid is overcooking, so monitor that carefully.
Pro tip: Before reheating on the stove, add some oil or butter to the pan to add moisture back into the dish.
How long to reheat on the stove: Reheating time will depend on the food and how much there is. For individual portions, it should take less than 5 minutes, checking/stirring throughout that time. .
Foods to Reheat in the Oven
Like the cooktop, anything that was cooked in the oven can easily be reheated in the oven, like baked dishes, casseroles, meat recipes and sheet pan meals. Reheating in the oven does take the longest out of all reheating methods, but it does create the best reheated meal and most fresh looking/tasting meal.
How long to reheat in the oven: Reheat on 180 degrees celsius for anywhere from 8-15 minutes depending on the dish. To ensure foods like casseroles and roast meats do not dry out while reheating in the oven, cover them with foil.
The Benefits of Freezing & Reheating Meals
Freezing and reheating your meal prep has countless benefits from reducing food waste to saving money and time. Let’s take an in-depth look below.
- Reduce food waste: Freezing food and meals greatly reduces the amount of food you throw away. Whether that’s fully cooked meals or food that’s about to expire, chucking it in the freezer preserves its lifespan and means you don’t have to throw it in the bin.
- Save money: Want to save money? Buy in bulk and freeze your food. When you buy in bulk, you’ll often get some great savings and discounts. Then, you can batch cook a bunch of recipes and throw them in the freezer to eat over the next couple of weeks. Also, always having a meal cooked and ready to eat prevents you from reaching for UberEats on nights you’re too tired to cook.
- Save time: Most of us have busy schedules from work to kids and everything in between. Finding the time to cook from scratch each night can be hard, but freezer meal prep makes it easy. When you have a few hours to yourself on the weekend, you can cook several meals at a time, store them in the freezer and pull them out during the week. You also save time in preparation and the clean-up process of making a meal (win-win!)
Keep Reading Meal Prepping Tips:
- How to plan meals in advance
- How to create a grocery list
- How to incorporate variety into your meals