Once you have started using a deep freeze, you will not want to live without one. Having a deep freeze means that you will be able to store up edibles during times of plenty (whether this plenty means a bumper crop in the garden or some top-notch specials at the supermarket) for when times are tough. However, if you’ve got one, you have to treat it properly in order to get the best out of it.
First of all: some basic energy-saving tips. Don’t put hot food in the freezer, but allow it to cool down first so the freezing unit doesn’t have to work overtime to get things down to the right temperature. Also, a full freezer is more efficient – frozen meat and containers of soup don’t rush out the door when it opens, but air does. The new air will then have to be cooled.
You will also have to defrost the deep freeze regularly – about once a year is enough for most people with busy lives to lead. The main thing is to defrost the freezer before the ice builds up to a level that stops you shutting the door properly. A defrosting session as part of your domestic cleaning London is also a good chance to check through your frozen goods and make sure that nothing’s been sitting there too long.
How long is too long in the freezer? Leaving aside the palaeontologists who claim that mammoth meat frozen since the ice age is perfectly preserved and edible, if you don’t mind a little “freezer burn”, here are some rough guidelines:
Fruit and vegetables: 8 months (although they are still good after two years, from personal experience with a batch of frozen stewed plums).
Freezing slows down enzyme reactions rather than stopping them, so blanching fruit and veg lightly or cooking them before they go into the freezer helps them stay good for longer. Berries are excellent to freeze and can be kept safely for up to a year.
Meat: up to 1 year, but less if the meat has been sliced or minced. For things you buy frozen (e.g. fish fingers), check the expiry date on the packet.
Eggs: Don’t freeze them at all – they can’t handle it.
Dairy products: up to 9 months, depending on what it is. If you have frozen a bottle of milk, wait until it thaws completely before drinking or using it, as the water part of it thaws out last.
Baked goods: three months for bread and the like, but biscuits can stay frozen for a year safely.
Some things don’t freeze well. Lettuces, bananas and all egg products shouldn’t be frozen, as they turn quite peculiar when they thaw out. It is also unwise to freeze stuffed poultry, as the stuffing can sometimes fail to freeze for some time and turn nasty in the process.
Don’t freeze anything that was in bad condition before it went in – it will still be bad when it comes out and you will have wasted valuable freezer space.
Make sure that you thaw out items you want to use properly before you start cooking them, especially meat. The exceptions here are berries or cut up pieces of fruit to be used in muffins, as they keep their shape for longer if they go into the mixture frozen; meat to be put through a mincer, which should be partially thawed, as it grinds more efficiently when half frozen; and frozen vegetables to be boiled, steamed or cooked in the microwave. Never put something back in the freezer once it’s thawed out.
If a power cut happens, your freezer will be good for a few days before things start thawing. Keep the door closed to keep the chill in for as long as possible. After about four days, things will begin to thaw. If the power is still out and your freezer was full of meat, this is the moment to get out your barbecue or light a fire, and to call all your neighbours around for a king-sized feast. It will cheer you all up during a crisis (which is what must be going on if the power has been out this long) so it won’t be a total waste of money.