Freezing leftovers: how to do it right

If you've ever frozen leftovers expecting to reheat them later for a fine meal, only to find they've lost their appeal - you're not alone. ''Freezing is one of the most popular methods of preserving foods because it's so easy,'' says Dawn Plambeck of the American Home Freezin' Institute.

''Yet, many people are not aware that just placing foods into the freezer without proper preparation can result in freezer burn, soggy foods, and even food spoilage.''

Here are some tips on several common freezing mistakes that might help avoid the loss of time and money and assure good meals.

l. Not freezing foods in the coldest part of the freezer can result in loss of quality. Keeping a freezer full helps foods stay as cold as they can be.

When the freezer door is opened, the food temperature remains constant but the surrounding air gets warmer and has to be cooled down again. The more air there is to be warmed, the more energy it takes to keep the freezer cool.

2. Trying to freeze foods that simply do not freeze well can cause the taste or consistency of the food to change. Lettuce, tomatoes, celery, and other similiar salad vegetables become limp and watery.

Many fresh fruits that are packed without syrup or water may become mushy. Foods that traditionally don't freeze well, such as garlic, hard-boiled eggs, or mayonnaise, can be frozen in freezing or cooking pouches to keep out air and moisture.

3. Refreezing foods that have thawed to room temperature can sometimes cause them to become mushy.

4. Not labeling foods by name can cause confusion. Chili, spaghetti sauce, or creole sauce all look alike when frozen. Better to label foods with a grease pencil and eliminate surprises.

5. Not preparing foods properly before freezing can spoil their taste. This means washing or wiping when needed, blanching vegetables, and sometimes using a sugar or salt solution according to specific directions.

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