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The Batch Lady: How to batch-cook, freeze and defrost your meals

by Suzanne Mulholland

published on 15 February 2024

New appliances are constantly marketed as the answer to our problems, something that will revolutionise our lives, and we do love to try new things. The humble freezer hums away in the background, with little thought given to it, but it is perhaps the greatest time-saving appliance of all!

If you want a hassle-free life when it comes to cooking, your freezer is your friend, your secret weapon, your single most important kitchen tool. By using your freezer you’re able to cook delicious meals, save food waste, save time, save money and most importantly save headspace. With Grab and Cook bags, in one hour you can have a week’s worth of meals in your freezer.

From the book

Suzanne Mulholland, The Batch Lady

Freezing

How to freeze meals

Use the guidelines below to get to grips with the simplest and safest way of preparing meals for your freezer.

When making a recipe that contains ready-frozen vegetables, work fast and get them back into the freezer as soon as possible to avoid them starting to defrost.

Keep the outside of the freezer bag dry at all times – this will prevent it sticking to other bags in the freezer.

Clearly label your bags with the name of the meal, the date it was made, the serving size and the cooking instructions. If the recipe states, for example, ‘to cook, add 1⁄2 cup of water and a tub of crème fraîche’, write this instruction on the bag. The more information you write, the easier it will be to cook.

Label your bag before filling it, as it’s much easier to write on when it’s flat and empty, and it gives the ink time to dry.

Where possible, freeze meals flat, expelling any excess air before sealing. Laying the meals flat means you can stack them on top of each other, making the most efficient use of space in your freezer.

If you are freezing multiple meals at a time, space them out around your freezer until they’re frozen, then stack them on top of each other. This method will help meals freeze faster and stop them freezing or sticking together.

Flash Freezing

In some of my recipes, you will see the instruction to flash freeze the food on a tray for a certain amount of time before packing it into freezer bags. Flash freezing is a process that allows you to freeze food without it sticking together or losing its shape, so you end up with individual portions that you can grab out of the bag, rather than having to defrost the whole bag. Simply find a small tray that fits into one of your freezer drawers, line the tray with baking parchment, then put whatever needs to be frozen on the tray in individual portions, making sure they have space around them. Once frozen, these can go into a labelled freezer bag and be stored flat and airtight in the freezer.

Divided Freezing Method

If you want to cook from frozen, one of the main challenges is how to get a large frozen-bag-size square of, for example, soup or stew into a round pot or a slow cooker! It’s actually very easy: before you freeze your bag of food, lay it flat on a tray and mark deep lines with a ruler or skewer down the middle and across the bag, so that the bag looks like the large portion inside has been divided into four. Then carefully freeze. This will allow you to snap off each portion and fit the small frozen portions into a slow cooker or round pot. If you want the meal to cook even quicker, divide it into more sections.

Small Freezer Storage

By storing your Grab and Cook meals flat in bags and stacking them like library books, you can get on average 15 family meals in one freezer drawer. So even if you have the smallest of freezers, you can still be organised with Grab and Cook meals in your freezer.

Storing meals in your fridge only

If you don’t have the space to freeze meals ahead, you can still make a few in advance and store them in your fridge. This will help you to still be organised for a few days ahead. Simply prepare two or three meals for the next few nights and store them in the fridge, being sure to mark any sell-by dates on the bags so you know which ones to eat first.

Defrosting

There are three main ways to defrost food: in the fridge, in cold water, or in the microwave – choose what suits your needs best! Defrosting meals that have been frozen flat is fast: they are thin, so unlike freezing in tubs, they will defrost quickly. Once a meal is fully defrosted, you have 24 hours before it has to be cooked.

In your fridge

If the recipe says to defrost before cooking, you can place the bag in the fridge overnight and it will be defrosted by the next day. Remember to always place it on a tray or in a dish to catch any water that collects as it defrosts.

The cold water method

Need something defrosted fast? Place your sealed bag, with the seal above the water, in a basin or tub of cold (never hot!) water. Within 20 minutes, the meal should be on its way to defrosting. This is my favourite way to defrost, as it’s so quick – it’s a great method to use if you have forgotten to take something out of the freezer.

In the microwave

Most microwaves have dedicated defrosting programmes. Always remove the food from the freezer bag and put it into a microwave-safe plate or bowl. Then simply follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific model, remembering to stir your food part way through the defrosting cycle.

Tip:

Struggling to remember to take things out of the freezer? Simply set an alarm on your phone that goes off at 6pm every night, reminding you to take tomorrow night’s meal out of the freezer. It’s a time you’re generally in the kitchen anyway, so it’s an easy chore. Most of the recipes in this book are cooked from frozen, so even if you completely forget, it shouldn’t be a concern.

Ready to start batch cooking? Check out these freezer-friendly recipes from The Batch Lady Grab and Cook:

Feta and Spinach Filo Swirls

by Suzanne Mulholland, The Batch Lady

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