54 Comments

  1. Rob

    Are you sure it’s safe to microwave food in plastic bags?
    If you set the frozen bag flat on your jelly roll pan and leave it out for a few minutes it will thaw pretty quickly.

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Rob! Check the bags that you’re using. Most name-brand freezer bags (like Ziploc) are safe for microwaving. I usually only microwave enough to thaw the edges and wiggle the block of frozen soup out of the bag.

  2. Lita Watson

    Even if you have properly stored pre-cooked baked beans in the freezer, check the taste, texture, and odor before eating them. If they are no longer good, just throw them away.

  3. Chef Steve

    I always defrost by putting the frozen bagged items in a bowl of cold water and then wait for a few hours. This method keeps the product at a safe temperature while defrosting and saves room in your refrigerator.

  4. Andrea

    has anyone just thought about putting a pot of water on to boil and putting the freezer bag with the contents, such as soup, in the boiling water to heat up…in the old days like the 60’s or 70’s there was a company that made boil in the bag meals

  5. Deb Fireline

    when I fill a zip lock bag with leftovers of any kind, i always turn/fold the top of the bag down, it helps keep the outside of the bag cleaner from spills & the zip lock area clean of food

  6. Ann

    What a great idea! Sometimes the simple things are best….freeze flat!

  7. Barbi

    I’ve been doing this with ground beef for years!!! I buy it when it’s on sale and stock up. I divide it into 1 lb. servings, use a rolling pin to flatten it out, seal it, label it date it and freeze flat. When I want to cook it, I fill my kitchen sink with hot water, drop in the frozen bag and in about 5 minutes the meat is thawed and I can use it to cook. I used to thaw the meat in the microwave in a block and hated how the edges got all grey and the center was still raw and frozen, DISGUSTING! This method works great! Especially for people like me who don’t always remember to put frozen meat in the fridge overnight to thaw.

  8. nola2chi

    Thanks for this helpful info on flat freezing. It has worked like a charm many years. Sharing is helpful and fun!

    An extra hint on freezing homemade stocks; freeze a thin bag of stock that you can smack on the corner of the cutting board to have smaller pieces for when you only need a couple of tablespoons of stock. The popular hint for this is to freeze in ice cube trays and pop them out to put in a freezer bag. That’s a bit too fussy for me and I don’t even have cube trays.

    When freezing larger amounts of cooked dry beans or soups and similar cooked foods I always smoothe the top of the contents in a freezer safe dish (like Pyrex), I gently poor a thin layer of water over the surface. It’s necessary to freeze flat for the ice to form evenly. This is a barrier to the dreaded freezer burn flavor that can ruin the dish. When you are ready to thaw, just rinse off the surface of the ice layer and presto! No icky freezer burn taste.

  9. Nancy

    I do freeze this way in Zip lock bags, such a space saver. However, I don’t thaw by putting the frozen food in the microwave as I was under the impression that any plastic shouldn’t be put in the microwave.

    • Emma Christensen

      Check the brand you use. Many (maybe even most?) plastic containers and bags are now approved as microwave safe.

  10. Kate

    Check Amazon for the Jokari Hands-Free Baggy Rack Storage Bag Holder. It works so well for filling ziplock bags!

  11. john boy

    Food saver system is the best overall way to freeze any thing..Re-usable bag always cut 1/3 larger than you need in order to cut open&then reseal. One yr later just as fresh..meats seafood veg et al

  12. Paul Lazaras

    The canning funnel works best. The freezer bag will comfortably hold 4 cups without overflowing. In lieu of the funnel, fold the top part of the bag (with the interlocking grooves) inside out. The bag now holds itself open. Place in a bowl or oversized cup with straight sides that holds it snugly (I find the 4 cup measuring cup too wide in diameter). Fill with up to 4 cups of your “stuff”. Unfold the top of the bag and evacuate as much air as possible while zipping locked shut. Hope this helps.

  13. Alexander Harrison

    This method also works well for storing ground meat in the freezer. A quart bag will hold about 1/2 pound of meat and the gallon size will hold 1 1/2 pounds. Put your measured quantity of meat in the bag and press the meat flat with your fingers into a rectangular shape. Then use a small cutting board to press it into a smooth flat package. I go a step further and use my sharpening steel to press down on the flatened meat and divide it into approximate 1/4 pound portions before freezing. That way I can use one portion or the the whole pound. (Two or three 20 second bursts in the microwave will defrost the single portions for use.)

  14. Marie moore

    Turn the top of the bag inside out and it won’t fall over and stays open. Rarely gets food on the zip part.

  15. Bonnie Baker Lippincott

    I have been doing it this way for years, now. Glad to hear someone else does it too.
    The other thing I do is cook a lot of chopped onion (I can get 3 lbs of already chopped for about $3 locally) and celery, then line a jelly roll pan with wax paper, spread out the cooked onion and celery, cover it with a sheet of wax paper and freeze it. When frozen I break it up into large pieces and put in a freezer bag. I also do this with hamburger, using some of the already cooked, before freezing, onion and celery. Cook the hamburger, drain, add the cooked vegetables, stir. And then I do the same freeze and breaking up as the onions and celery. There are just the two of us at home now and it really makes it easy to get dinner on the table.

    • Liz

      ooohh! I never thought of freezing cooked onion/celery. There is 1 of me and I rarely need a whole onion. Thanks, Bonnie Baker Lippincott!!

      • nola2chi

        When you freeze raw onions it converts the sugars and you get a different result when cooked. My friend would chop and freeze her “trinity” one day and complete making the gumbo the next. When the roux is just right you can stop it going too dark by throwing in the vegies. It can be a bit of a violent reaction so use caution regarding spattering hot oil .

  16. Bette

    I’m curious if you reuse the freezer bags after the first use? I do not — I’ve always assumed the seals would give way and leak the second or subsequent times. I also generally end up cutting the bag off the frozen block of whatever b/c I’m in a hurry!

    • Emma Christensen

      I usually reuse the bags for other, everyday things or for freezing non-liquids (like berries or vegetables). I agree with you — I’m less confident of the seals after the first time!

      • Jean

        How do you clean the bag to reuse? I would be afraid of contamination.

        • Emma Christensen

          I usually just flip the bags inside out and scrub with soap and water using a dish rag or sponge. Let them air dry inside-out in a dish rack. I rarely freeze raw meat (and I throw away those bags if I do). Cross contamination or bacteria growth is far less of a concern with cooked foods as long as you’re doing a good job of cleaning the bags after use.

  17. c

    “Cuffing” the top of the bag (rolling the top back so that the zipper’s an inch or so down) helps tremendously with keeping the tops clean and preventing messes when closing the bags. The zippers will hold the bag wide open so that even if you don’t have a canning funnel, you’ve got a decent shot of getting everything in neatly.

  18. Brian

    We already do this for our bulk applesauce & winter squash production. Works great and makes the freezer neater.

    One additional suggestion – add the date on the bag. Sometimes things get left in there longer than you intend, and even applesauce has a shelf life in the freezer.

  19. Alida @My Little Italian Kitchen

    A very useful post. I do freeze a lot too especially chopped parsley and leftover meals. I could not live without my freezer!

  20. Regina

    How long do you wait to fill them? At what temperature in order to cool down enough, so that bacteria doesn’t grow, but warm enough to fill?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Regina,

      The food should be cooled to at least room temperature before packing it up and freezing. No longer warm.

  21. Gustavo Woltmann

    Those are some pretty good pieces of advice! Thank you for this article.

  22. Sage Sugar

    Freezing is such a great way to reduce food waste and you always have a meal ready when you don’t feel like cooking. Thanks for the tip!

  23. Negative Nellie

    I usually thaw in a large bowl or container because any nick to the plastic will cause a leak. I’ve learned this the hard way with chicken broth all over my counter.

  24. Jerry

    I can speak to both the “Don’t stack bags more than 3 or 4 high” rule and the “Don’t overfill the bags” rule. They’re good rules! I use this method to put up my Smoked Tomato Sauce. I had about 5 quart bags stacked and filled with 4 cups each. Turned around to fill the next and heard this horrible, sloppy THUD / SPLAT! The top 3 bags had slid off and exploded on the floor… up the sides of the cabinets… under the dishwasher… all across the kitchen… two pugs in the other room came running at a sprint thinking I’d dropped something delicious… I had… They slid through the middle of it… They helped me clean it before my wife got home. Now, 3 cups ONLY in a quart bag stacked ONLY 4 high.
    I also use the “disposable” heavy-duty 1 quart plastic deli tubs left by the Mexican restaurant that sometimes caters meals at my workplace. Reusable, stackable, microwaveable, freezer & dishwasher safe.

    • Linda

      Thanks for the great laugh. I got a great visual on your pugs…my Bichon’s would do the same thing…and think white dogs and tomato. Not a good combo!

  25. Bebe

    My son taught me this. They use it for all sorts of things. I use it for dead bananas. Sometimes bananas get away from us and then are good for only banana bread and muffins. That is when they get mooshed up and put in bags, flattened so they can stack. The canning funnel is a brilliant tool (ours came from Ball decades ago). Makes filling easier and no mess. The zip part stays clean. The other thing to remember is to keep about an inch free at the top.

    I have never ever worried that plastic freezer bags would somehow “infiltrate” the food stored in them.

  26. June

    I have been doing this same thing for years. I thought I was so brilliant and now I see how many other BRILLIANT people there are out there. Three cheers for all of us BRILLIANT people. Ha, Ha, Ha. June.

  27. Winona

    I have this eternal inner conflict between wanting to maximize freezer space and reducing waste. The latter usually wins – it’s really an important issue for us Europeans, recycling and reducing plastic waste. So I try to make some sort of inventory of the foods I have sitting in the freezer (and where they may be found), use glass and reusable, BPA-free plastic containers. I’ve resorted to using ziploc bags for quicly freezing homegrown spinach etc, which I use for lasagne because I can take it out of freezer and assemble the dish immediately without waiting for spinach to thaw. But that’s about it.

    • Susan

      I agree that reusable containers are the way to go! Plastic bags will be in a landfill forever. Of course, one could always wash and reuse the freezer bags as my mom does. :)

    • Christina

      We also do a lot of plastic bag washing (hang to dry in laundry room) and reusing though I had to draw the line at washing plastic wrap as I couldn’t figure out a way to do it. Totally agree about reuseable containers.

      I cringe at hearing of putting warm food into plastic freezer bags (uh, BPA). So unfortunately my freezer is a Tetris-free zone ;-) About BPA-free containers: we reuse the BPA-free plastic pint containers of our favorite gelato, Talenti, keeping in mind that their brown plastic lids don’t create a leak-proof seal. Great for freezing soup-size portions of beans, etc. Otherwise it’s good ole mason jars, baby.

  28. Farida

    I always freeze soup, and I have small freezer , and always confused how to do it, thanks a lot for sharing

  29. Dan

    I do this, and once made the mistake of using the bags with a plastic zipper thing to freeze green chile. They leaked, and left me with a worthless solid block that forced me to defrost my chest freezer. So your warning about choosing your bag type and brand carefully, and using a pan should be heeded.

    • Bebe

      Great point!!! Those bags with the slides will not work. They are not sure-seals on the best of days, and they are not secure enough for this liquid-freezing application. The regular bags with the double tracks that press together FIRMLY are the only ones that work. And they must not be filled too full. At least a good inch of space is required below the sealing tracks (I so only quart bags, not gallons)…

  30. Sara | Last Night's Feast

    Very cool idea!

  31. Liz

    Yes to flat freezing AND storing in a “bin”. This stopped the avalanche of frozen things on my toes every time I opened the freezer. I also use a canning funnel and recently bought one from Amazon that has a bit longer “collar” than my previous one (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007QT4GMQ/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1). I also recently bought a vacuum sealer and use just seal (no vacuum) for beans. The bags seem a bit heavier. I have had problems with the freezer zips tearing just under the Ziploc part.

  32. Natalie

    This is so helpful! Thank you!

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  33. John

    I’ve done something similar when I fished and had more than 1 meal’s worth. I would place the fish withing the zip lock freezer bag, fill with water, zip it up nearly all the way. Then I would lay the bag flat in the sink with the open corner at the highest point and squeeze out most of the water along w/ all of the air and quickly zip closed to prevent any air to slip back into the bag. If any air bubbles remained, I’d repeat the process until I succeeded. This allowed the fish to remain frozen longer than normal while preserving the taste of market bought fish (nothing can ever taste as good as same day caught fish) and prevent freezer burn.

    • nola2chi

      You are right about not preserving the fresh caught taste, but the water trick works very well. We’re on the Gulf Coast and freeze fish and shrimp this way all the time with excellent results. For head on shrimp you have to use a rigid container because they will poke holes in bags!….and unfortunately hands too.

  34. Jacki Smythe

    Would you know if the zip type bags have PVCs in them and if they might infiltrate the food?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Jacki — It’s best to check with the individual manufacturer for this question. Thanks!

  35. Jennifer

    If you fold the top of the bag out (so the zip is on the outside) it not only keeps the zip part clean, it also holds itself open for you. :-)

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