Your freezer is one of the most underrated kitchen tools, says David Lee, cofounder and executive chef of Planta restaurants in Miami and Toronto. It can help you jump-start dinner, take advantage of sales, reduce waste and spoilage, and always have ingredients on hand. Try keeping these unexpected items in the freezer. It’s a game changer!
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- PHOTO BY: ROST-9D/GETTY1. AvocadosSlice in half, peel and remove the pit. Brush the avocado halves with lemon juice and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Add them to a freezer-safe bag, then press out the air before sealing and freezing. Thaw, then mash into guacamole.
- PHOTO BY: IMAGE SOURCE/GETTY2. Lemon or orange slices
Freeze them in a glass container. Defrost them for eating or cooking (such as adding them to a sheet pan dinner or stuffing them inside a chicken), suggests Palak Patel, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education.
- PHOTO BY: QWART/GETTY3. MilkPour it into a container with enough room for the liquid to expand. The milk will appear curdled when you defrost it (but taste OK), so it’s best used for baking, Patel says. Or use the thawed milk to make homemade buttermilk, blending it with a touch of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
- PHOTO BY: AHIRAO_PHOTO/GETTY4. PastaSpeed up dinner prep by defrosting frozen partially cooked pasta. Undercook it by a few minutes, then rinse it with cold water, Patel recommends. When it’s cool, toss it with a little oil, spread it on a baking sheet and freeze it for a few hours before transferring it to a bag. Ready to eat it? Finish cooking it in sauce.
- PHOTO BY: QWART/GETTY5. CheeseHarder kinds of cheese, such as aged cheddars or Parmesan, withstand freezing better than soft ones, says Joe Baird, cheesemonger and culinary consultant for Real California Milk. Keep the cheese whole, in its original wrapping, and place it inside a freezer bag near the front of the freezer.
- PHOTO BY: IMAGE SOURCE/GETTY6. Fresh herbsDon’t let excess parsley or basil go to waste. Blend it with olive oil or water, then freeze in an ice cube tray, notes Mario Garcia, executive chef with Hilton Chicago. Stir the frozen cubes into sauces.
- PHOTO BY: QWART/GETTY7. Leafy greensSteam spinach or kale until it’s completely wilted, then allow it to cool. Freeze up to 1 pound at a time in a sealed bag, Lee says. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it in the fridge overnight; reheat the greens in the oven after tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper.