For busy people, the freezer can be your best friend, but you need to follow a few simple rules to make sure it doesn’t become your worst enemy. Freezing keeps food (and bacteria) in suspended animation – so until it is defrosted, bacteria cannot grow.
Top tips for defrosting and freezing
Defrosting time depends very much on the size of the food and the temperature of the fridge
Generally if you have a very cold fridge for example below 5 °C it can take up to 10 hours per kilogram to defrost a large joint. So, for example, if you have a 3 kg joint and then it could take 30 hours – around a day and a half to defrost. A Christmas turkey may be even bigger and take longer. This means it is really important to plan ahead if you’re planning to cook a large joint of meat or large turkey that’s between the freezer.
Why defrost foods in the fridge if it takes so long?
The fridge is the best place for defrosting as it keeps the food below the temperature that bacteria can grow, so it keeps the food safe. If you defrost in a warm kitchen, then the bacteria on the outside of the food can grow whilst the food is still defrosting in the middle
The reason it’s so important to defrost foods thoroughly is because if you don’t then the inside of the food will still be frozen and when you put in the in the oven to cook the outside will appear cooked but the inside could still be raw and have a dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli present which could cause you and your family or guests to be very ill.
Use a deep dish to defrost foods to catch any dripping it comes off because this trip could contain harmful bacteria always defrosted the bottom of the fridge away from ready to eat foods so you reduce any risk of cross contamination
For small frozen items you can use the microwave defrost button, but you must cook the food immediately after microwave defrosting because it will have warmed up during defrosting and that means that it gives bacteria in the food a chance to start to multiply.
Check that you have cooked thoroughly enough using a probe thermometer – it’s the only way to be sure. This will tell you whether the food is reached the critical temperature of 75 °C – colour or texture alone may not give you the correct indication – I find I am more likely to over-cook food if I don’t use a probe!
What can you freeze?
- Left over dinners
- Separated egg whites or egg yolks
- Bananas (for milk shakes and smoothies)
- Chopped ham for pizza toppings
- Olives for putanesca sauce
- Home made tomato sauce for pasta
- Meat and chicken
Just remember – it’s simple – defrost carefully in the fridge, and cook thoroughly to 75 °C