Secrets of Freezer Management Revealed!

WHAT TO FREEZE
1. Sauces and stocks. Freeze them in small containers or ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop them out of the containers/ice cube trays and store the cubes in freezer bags. When you want a little sauce or stock, pull out just the number of cubes you need.

2. Cooked casseroles, pies, or fillings. Freeze solid in the cooking pan, then remove by tapping out or dipping the pan in a hot water bath. Store the solid mass in a freezer bag. When ready to reheat, remove the item from the bag, place it in the original pan, and heat.

3. Nuts and nut oils. These go rancid very quickly, so freeze them to prevent spoilage. Let them come to room temperature before using.

4. Bread. Cut bread into serving portions and wrap it first in freezer plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Use within two to three weeks.

5. Cookie dough. Roll the raw dough into a 1-1/2-inch tube and wrap it in freezer plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Or scoop it into balls and store them in freezer bags. When unexpected guests or late-night cravings arrive, cut a little off the tube or grab a frozen cookie dough ball and pop it into the oven.

6. Tomato paste. Portion excess tomato paste out by the tablespoon and freeze solid. Then store in a freezer bag for use later.

7. Homemade baked goods, like brownies. They will keep for about three weeks. Let them come to room temp before serving. If you're freezing pancakes, separate each with a piece of parchment paper to avoid them fusing together.

8. Flours, especially whole-grain varieties that contain the germ. If stored in a warm place and not used quickly, flours can go rancid. Freeze them in large freezer bags.

9. Meats. Wrap in freezer plastic wrap, then foil. Keep in the coldest part of the freezer. For an upright freezer, that's along the walls. For a chest freezer, it's at the bottom.

10. Berries. Lay them on a baking sheet in a single layer without touching, freeze them solid, then store in a freezer bag.

WHAT NOT TO FREEZE
1. Things containing eggs, mayonnaise, sour cream, and fresh cheeses, like cream cheese. When frozen, these will either separate or become watery. If you freeze a blended sauce or soup containing one of these, you can blend it again to emulsify.

2. Fried foods. They won't have their original crisp when reheated.

3. Fruits with a high water content, such as strawberries. They will become limp when thawed. However, that won't matter as much if you're using them in smoothies, sauces, jams, or scones. See our ideas for freezing summer fruits.

4. Vegetables with a high water content, such as summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms, and celery. They will become limp when thawed. Either chop the veggies into small pieces so they freeze quickly, or cook them to remove the water before freezing.

5. Soups and stews that contain potatoes. The potatoes can brown and become mushy when frozen. Instead add them raw to thawed stews and soups, and cook them as you reheat.

6. Herbs. The flavor of herbs changes when frozen. Add them fresh to hot sauces or soups.

Hot Thawing Tip! Anything bready or doughy (like pie dough or pasta) can go straight from the freezer to the oven or pot.

Jill Santopietro is a former food editor at CHOW.