Saturday, February 15, 2014

Freezer Cooking Part 3: Tools to Make Things Easier

Tools To Make Freezer Cooking Easy

To be super successful with freezer cooking it's important to make sure that you have the necessary tools. Some of these things you may already have, some you might be able to adapt other things to fit, while other items you might want to purchase in order to make freezer cooking work out for you. 

The Right Freezer -- A chest freezer is really the best type of freezer in terms of keeping the food the right temperature. The freezer over your fridge probably isn't enough for once a month cooking, although you could likely use that freezer for freezing lunch meals. Invest in a good chest freezer and you'll be able to freeze enough food for an entire month of meals. Most freezers can easily be stored in the garage or laundry room.  

Big Giant Bowls -- When you are preparing food in bulk, you'll need to have some large bowls. You can use glass, stainless, or even plastic. Tupperware has some really great large mixing bowls with lids that are perfect for mixing ingredients in and making dough for bread and rolls in too. But any large mixing bowls will do.  

Big Giant Pots -- It helps to have several big pots to cook large amounts of food in. If you have more than one large pot life will be that much easier for you. If not, just be ready to do some planning and a bit of washing.   

Wooden Utensils -- You want to invest in a few sets of wooden utensils for stirring, like a long wooden spoon to reach inside your giant stock pot. Even though you may not be using non-stick cookware when you cook in bulk, using wooden utensils is great for any type of pan.


2 or 3 sets of Measuring Cups & Spoons -- You don't want to have to wash things while you're cooking to start over. Instead, just invest in a few different sets of measuring cups and spoons so that you'll always have them on hand.

Freezer Bags -- Many people use Ziploc® bags for freezer cooking and some people prefer to use the Seal-A-Meal Vacuum sealing system. (That's on my wish list... just saying... anyone have one they aren't using???) I currently use Ziploc® bags myself.  You will also be freezing some items in freezer/microwave safe cookware.

Large Pitcher and clothespins -- I know this one sounds a bit crazy, but it is SOOOOO helpful when you are trying to fill the freezer bags.  Trust me on this.  Just open a gallon bag, clip the sides to the top of the pitcher and fill it up.  Unclip when you are done, press out the air and label it.  It saves making a BIG MESS (and I would know this because....) when the bag you are filling falls over....

Glass Baking Pans -- Believe it or not you can freeze and bake in glass baking pans. Purchase the kind that comes with the plastic lid for freezing. Be sure to read all directions because you can't just pop it right from the oven to the freezer or vice versa without a problem.  (Problem being: shattered glass in the oven... we are back thinking about junior high science again here, folks!)

Ceramic Bakeware -- The great thing about ceramic is that it's not bad for you. You probably hear a lot about how bad plastic is for you, well, there is nothing bad about ceramic bakeware, which can go from freezer to oven and vice versa relatively easily.

Silicon Muffin Cups -- These are flexible and stick-free. They're great for freezing broth or soup in handy serving sizes. You just pop the broth out and into freezer bags for later use.

Sharpie -- You need to label everything and a sharpie really does work the best for writing directly on the bags. If you don't want to write directly on the container then buy some masking tape, write on that, and stick it to the dish.

Disposable Baking Pans -- There will be times that you want to take a dish out of your freezer and donate it to a friend, or take it to a potluck. It's so much easier if you're not worried about getting the dish back.

Stainless Jelly Roll Pan or Two (or three) -- This is going to come in very handy for many things. Don't buy the kind with nonstick on it. You want the kind without because you're going to sometimes put it in the freezer and freezing anything with a non-stick coating will ruin it.

Great Chopping Knife -- Don't skimp on the quality of your knives. You want to be able to cut veggies and everything for your dishes easily and quickly without having bad knives. You might try out some knives at a kitchen store because it also matters how it feels to you in your hand.

Note: Keeping your knives in good working order also depends on the type of cutting boards you use. Avoid glass and ceramic.

2 Large Slow Cookers -- This is very handy. Use one for a dish and a second one for dinner the night you're cooking all that food for the freezer. It'll make your life a lot easier and whatever is cooking in there will smell great.

Ice Cube Trays -- Great for freezing left over broth and stock to use in recipes later.

Aluminum Foil -- Some people aren't a fan of foil, and you certain don't have to use it but it can help keep your pans clean, and make storing things easier in some cases.

Sticky Plastic Wrap -- If you are freezing in an aluminum container or other one without a top, I prefer to using Glad® Press'n Seal® plastic wrap.  Once the meal has cooled, I put a layer of this (sticks well to the container) then aluminum over it. ** It's also handy for going over your newly planted seeds when you start them.

Parchment Paper -- When freezing items with meat it's good to have some parchment paper between the plastic and the foil to soak up moisture and keep things from sticking.

Dry-Erase Board & Marker -- **Here's a hint from an organized friend: When you put something in your freezer, you should write on the dry erase board what you put in there, and mark it off as you remove it. This way you will always know what's inside.

2 or 3 Large Wire Mesh Colanders -- You'll need to use these to drain things and the mesh kind are easier since very little other than water can go through, plus, if there happens to be grease it won't melt like a plastic colander.

Mandolin – Great to use if you want pretty slices that are uniform such as with an apple pie or potato au gratin casserole.

Food Processor -- Great for cutting up and mixing batches of food fast.

Blender -- Awesome for making breakfast dishes from frozen fruit. No need to spend too much money.  

2 Cutting Boards -- Get one for meat, and one for everything else. You still want to keep them washed off during the process, but this will keep you from accidentally mixing during the cooking process. Wood and bamboo cutting boards are easier on your knives but they do get germy faster so be sure to bleach them after use. Plastic cutting boards are the next best thing. Avoid glass and ceramic. They are super hard on knives and can actually shatter after a lot of use.

Apron -- You want to have something clean to wipe your hands on instead of your clothes. Plus, it's fun to put on an apron and get into the mood.

Dish Towels & Cloths -- Again, you want to be able to wipe down things and it's easier as you go.  Have extras so you aren't running for one in the midst of your creating.

Comfortable Shoes -- You will be standing for a long time so you want to be sure that you have comfortable shoes. Me?  I'm in my sneakers!

Comfort Mat -- Even if you are in comfortable shoes, a mat is a GREAT idea.  Put it beside the counter or island or sink and you won't mind doing all those dishes. (Okay... so it's the thought that counts...) Your feet will feel good and because of that so will your back. 

Some of these items, as you can tell, are extras to make your life easier and more comfortable, but some are real necessities for freezer cooking. 

Do you have any other tools/ideas/etc to make things go well?  Do share!
Have fun in the kitchen,


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