I am the first person to admit that a freezer changed the way I cook. When I married my husband, part of the furniture that came with him was a large chest freezer. He was born and bred in Kentucky, where having a giant coffin-sized freezer out in the garage is essential. I, however, grew up in downtown Chicago, and we had a decent-size freezer attached to our fridge in the kitchen, which was mainly there to provide ice for beverages, and storage for frozen vegetables and ice cream.
Once we were married and the chest freezer came to live with me, everything changed. I could store bones and scraps for stock, and then store the stock once made, so that I was never again relegated to store-bought boxes of broth. My holiday and entertaining prep changed fundamentally: I could make dishes ahead and freeze them, easing up the pressure on me the day or week of the celebration. Baking needs like flours, nuts, chocolate, and even spices could all be stored and last much longer, saving me a fortune in replacing grayed out flakes of herbs and rancid walnuts.
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But a freezer, while magic in some ways, can ruin the texture and appeal of certain foods (and make others actually explode). Read on for my top four things you should never put in the freezer.
1. Raw Vegetables
The freezer sounds like a terrific place to stash some of summer’s bounty for when you are craving freshness in winter. But don’t put raw veggies straight in: If you freeze a raw vegetable, the process will expand the water in its cell structure and burst the cells. The result: soggy, thawed produce that will feel like its overcooked. For better results, blanch your vegetables for about a minute in boiling water and then shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking. You’ll retain the color and protect the texture. The one exception to the no-raw-veggies rule is chopped onions that are going into baked dishes like casseroles. Consider doubling or even tripling your freezer bags around them to make sure their distinctive aroma doesn’t invade your whole freezer, though. When ready to use, add them straight to your dish from frozen.
2. Milk and Yogurt
I know it can be tempting, when facing down a perfectly good recent purchase of a gallon of milk or a giant tub of yogurt and then getting suddenly called away for a business trip, to just pop it in the freezer. To be clear, it doesn’t make the milk or yogurt unsafe, but generally it will separate into thick chunky pieces suspended in watery stuff and is super unappetizing. Give the milk to a neighbor and buy a new one when you get back from that conference. Yogurt, despite the existence of “frozen yogurt” does the same thing as milk, so try and only buy what you need and let the rest go.
3. Eggs in the Shell
Most of you know that it is totally fine to save either raw yolks or whites left over from recipes in your freezer. So, it is natural to think you could freeze whole eggs. But don’t try it. As the eggs freeze, the water inside expands and the shell will crack or even sort of explode. Not a good look for the inside of your freezer. If you want to save whole eggs, crack them into a small freezer-safe container and then freeze. They won’t be good for a morning poach, but they will be fine for baking.
RELATED: How to Freeze and Reheat Prepared Meals
4. Soft or Fresh Cheeses
While harder cheeses like parmesan and pecorino are naturals to stash in the freezer, and even bricks of firm cheese like cheddars and Swiss can be frozen for short amounts of time with no real ill effects, all soft and fresh cheeses break down into sad, watery clumps after even the smallest amount of freezing. Cream cheese, chèvre, farmer cheese, ricotta, cottage cheese, and bloomed-rind cheeses like Brie and Camembert should all be kept away from the freezer.
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