I was never very good at utilizing my freezer. Like most people, my freezer was generally full of food that I never used. I hate thinking about how much of that food ended up in the trash! Then I discovered the art of tray freezing cookie dough balls…a brilliant yet dangerous art, let me tell you. Once I started freezing my cookie dough this way, my brain finally clicked and I realized that just maybe this technique could be applied to other foods as well.
Tips for Tray Freezing
I recently read a Mark Bittman article in the NY Times about freezing food. If you have not read this article, hop to it! It is an invaluable resource chock full of great tips and information regarding freezing food. The article was just what I needed to broaden my freezer-burned horizons and get my freezer doing the best job it can do.
In case you are wondering what “tray freezing” is – well, it’s simple. Have some food you want to freeze? Spread it out on a large tray or cookie sheet – you can line the sheet with wax paper to minimize sticking and cut down on cleaning time. Stick the tray in the freezer. Close the door. After a few hours, dump the food into a plastic zipper bag and you’re done!
I have fallen in love with this technique. In addition to cookie dough I’ve used it for berries, meatballs, vegetables and breadcrumbs. Some vegetables may need to be blanched first…just do a quick google search to help figure that out.
A quick case study: bell peppers. I purchased a large bag of mini sweet bell peppers at Costco, which were threatening to go bad in my fridge. I chopped them up, applied the tray freezing technique (no blanching required for peppers) and voila! Chopped peppers at my fingertips and no wasted food. Love it!
If you haven’t done any tray freezing, give it a try. If you’re a pro, please share your favorite foods for tray freezing and any other tips you may have!
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I use this method when freezing grapes and berries for a cool quick Summer time treat for the kiddos.
great tip robin! hadn’t thought of that, so thank you!
Be careful with the onions and peppers — I find that if I freeze them on an open tray, their odor permeates the ice cream and other stuff in the freezer. I try to spread them out in a bag or freezer container in layers. The inner bags from cereal boxes work great for separating layers — thicker, slicker and stronger than waxed paper. Sometimes I put the bag or container inside another bag to help contain the odor.
thanks:) i need to write down things i need for the farmers market on saturday!!
hi fey – I’m not an expert – but I think tupperware should work fine. you can’t really suck the air out, so it’s not as tight of a seal…but I’ve frozen things in tupperware before without any problem. sometimes just a few ice crystals on top – good luck! :)
hi guys! thank you so much for posting this and for the comments, you do not know how much this helps newbies like me!! I was wondering if I can just place them in tupperwares, just because I think I might have to throw plastics a lot, after:) thank you again!
Mmmm, love the frozen cookie dough balls. (Yes, many are eaten frozen.) What I love about the small batches is doing them in my toaster oven instead of heating up the whole house in the summer.
I do this with my biscuits. That way we can always have fresh, hot biscuits out of the oven whenever we want. The problem is that I often leave them on the tray in the freezer and forget to bag them, this is not good. I should write myself a note or something.
I also do the food cube idea!
Labeling and dating is always important :)
In addition to freezing cookie dough, fruits (esp. bananas, they don’t last long here in AZ) and veg.; I like to freeze veggie broth, lemon juice and homemade baby food in ice cube trays. That way, with the broth and lemon juice, you can use a little without defrosting the whole thing. Two lemon juice cubes, a few strawberries, water and sugar in the blender….yum! One or two cubes of baby food is a perfect serving size for a new eater.
I’ve done this a few times, but not enough; really great ideas.
Great post! I love to freeze stock (not on a tray though) and I always double up on banana bread and freeze one for another time. I also freeze any fruits that are on their last legs and keep a big container in the freezer for smoothies. We also have a mixed fruit smoothie, as I just grab a large handful from the frozen fruit bucket. It’s also more economical as I find frozen fruit to be quite pricey. I look forward to your next post!
I freeze pancakes this way. I make a big batch of pancakes and freeze the rest on a tray. You can just either microwave or pop them in the toaster for weekday pancakes.
oh my goodness am I glad I wrote this post! I just knew you’d all have great suggestions for items to freeze, and techniques for freezing. I’m even MORE in love with tray freezing than I was this morning. :) thanks everyone – keep the ideas coming!!
Berries and sugar snap peas work great! I hadn’t thought to do peppers. Thanks for sharing that…I’m sure I’ll be freezing peppers from my garden this summer.
What great tips! I really need to utilize my freezer better and quit throwing away so much produce. Thanks for the idea!
I love to tray freeze as well. Some things tend to stick to the tray when frozen. If you line your tray with a silicon mat, you can get anything to pop right off.
Awesome! I am totally going to do the cookie dough and peppers. I did this with chicken breasts last week. I bought it on sale, then tray froze the breasts and put them in a freezer bag, love it!!
When I buy chicken breasts, I always find that they are much too large for an individual serving, but my husband feels “gypped” if he doesn’t get a whole breast. So now when I’m rebagging the raw chicken in meal-sized portions, I get my scissors and clip off the tenderloin portion and tray freeze them. Then I’ve got a bag of tenderloins ready to go and my husband gets a “whole” breast!
I freeze my cookie dought that way when I don’t just make it into cookies.
I had the idea to only bake rolls until just done…not brown. Then you tray freeze. When it’s time for dinner, they’re hot and fresh!
I like to freeze fruit this way to support my smoothie habit. Bananas, strawberries, peaches, other berries… etc. etc.
Now that summer is here…..and so is the endless mounds of garden squash….I use a cheese gratter and grate the fresh squash right into a freezer ziplock bag. No cooking before hand is needed. PERFECT for adding to soups and casseroles later on. I can even use it for zucchini bread and muffins. I still have some in my freezer from last summer!!
Good post! We use a vacuum system that works well but i really like the tray idea. Especially for liquid foods.
Good timing for this post. With gardens planted and veggies growing, we might all be able to put our freezers to good use! I plan on freezing our sweet corn and green beans this way.
I do a variation in muffin tins. Whenever I make taco meat, lettuce wrap filling, or bbq beef, I fill muffin tins with single servings and flash freeze. Then I pop them out and put them in freezer bags. I also do this with things like macaroni and cheese and chili….now that my kids are bigger I am using Texas muffin pans. They are about the same size as the Chef Boyardee tubs that cost at least $1.50 each.
I chop a bunch of onions at once and freeze, but I don’t use a tray. I think that would work out better. And I didn’t even think of doing this with other veggies. Thanks!
I’ve been freezing fruit and vegies like this for years. Here’s another idea. Every time I buy onions I shed most of my tears at one time by chopping, dicing and freezing the majority of them in the manner you’ve shared. It works out great! Thanks for all of your great ideas. I love this site!
We love tray freezer at our house.
Here’s how we “http://www.ehow.com/how_5053186_freeze-strawberries.html”>Freeze Strawberries and “http://www.ehow.com/how_4929125_freeze-banana-slices.html”>Freeze Banana Slices.
I buy meat and chicken in bulk when I find sales. Sometimes it’s around 3 lbs. of meat and since we don’t ever use that much at a meal, I divide it up and freeze it on trays. It works well. Then I put it in baggies to use later.
I always freeze leftovers in small containers for quick lunches. Saves much needed space in the fridge. I HATE peeling and dicing potatoes for mashed potatoes so I do a bunch all at the same time and freeze them in ziplock baggies. Its so much easier to make mashed potatoes! And for working moms making meals ahead of time on the weekend and freezing them is a saving grace. lol… can you tell I love my freezer?!?
Welcome to M&T!! And thanks for the example of the peppers… ha ha, I have some “threatening to go bad” in my fridge right now! :) I love the tray-freezing concept, although I would need to up the discipline factor to actually GO BACK and re-bag them after they were frozen!
I do make cookie dough in advance & freeze it (I always double or triple batch it if I make it), but I always spoon it into a log and roll it up instead. At least then I can’t go in and pick at it in the freezer!
This is a great idea! I need to do this more rather than waiting for produce to go bad and throwing it out!!!
Last summer I froze 1/2 cup servings of puree’d yellow squash. (our garden had more squash than we could keep up with). all year I’ve been using the puree in baked goods, and just yesterday in macaroni and cheese. I’ll certainly do it again this year. I also freeze chopped onions.
Can Not do cookie dough though. Cookie dough is a huge weekness of mine and I would snag one of those little guys out of the freezer everyday if it were there. :)
I’ve been freezing cookie dough like this for about a year and you’re right — it’s dangerous to have cookie dough easily available at any time! I’ll have to give it a try for vegetables as well. Thanks for the tips.