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“Freeze your food flat in zip-top bags to keep your freezer neat and tidy,” they say. It’s one of those kitchen tips that so many people have heard and follow. And it’s a good tip. It allows you to neatly stack frozen foods in an attempt to maximize freezer space. But after years of following this advice, I’ve determined it to be flawed thinking.
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First, finding the space to initially freeze things perfectly flat can be tricky — especially if I’m trying to freeze more than one gallon bag at a time. (Very likely if I am batch cooking!) The easiest way I have found to do it is to arrange the filled bags on a baking sheet on top of a layer of parchment paper (this prevents the bags from freezing to the baking sheets). This works OK, but I always have to move things around in order to make sure there is enough space for the entire baking sheet to sit level. And while a half sheet pan may fit in my bottom freezer, there’s not a whole lot you can do to accommodate one in a side-by-side freezer.
Once you find the space and freeze your food so it’s nice and flat, the tip works; you can file the bags away and keep lots of food on hand. It’s the next part that I have the most issue with.
The idea that I am slowly thawing something in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner is incredibly optimistic. So in order to get frozen food out of the bag, I have to cut the bag open and peel it away. This means I can’t reuse the bag, which I really make an effort to do.
Once I’ve managed to free my food from its plastic prison, I’m stuck with a 10×10-inch block of chili, and the only pan that will hold its surface area is a 12-inch skillet. Do you know how weird and inefficient it is to ladle chili out of a skillet? Well, let me tell you: It is very weird and inefficient.
And what if I don’t want an entire gallon of chili? Perhaps what is most irksome about this freezer bag method is portioning. I’m stuck thawing at least a quart at a time. Maybe I want spaghetti and meatballs for lunch, but don’t want to thaw an entire gallon bag of sauce and meatballs. Or I want to make a pan sauce for the pork chops I picked up on my way home, but only need half of a cup of chicken stock, not a quart.
There is a better way to freeze food, and that way is Souper Cubes.
If you haven’t already heard me talk about these, allow me to explain: Souper Cubes are essentially large ice cube trays for your leftovers. Although that doesn’t explain how well they work or do them justice, really. They’re made of thick silicone, and have a steel-reinforced rim with a snap-on lid. Their sturdy construction means they don’t need the extra support of a baking sheet underneath them. And the lid means I can stack things on top of them.
Once food is frozen, it easily comes out of the molds. I can fit eight of the one-cup blocks in a gallon bag, which stack and store quite nicely in my freezer. It’s so easy to wash and reuse the freezer bags for my next set of food blocks. And the trays clean up nicely, too. Just run them through the dishwasher — no lingering smells or stains.
But the sizes are what make these so incredibly great. I love the one-cup size, which allows me to freeze four single servings of soup, or just enough beans to roll into a tortilla for easy lunches. (My mother-in-law loves this size, too. Now that she is only feeding herself and my father-in-law, she can cook once and eat many times.) And if I want to defrost enough food for my family, it is so much easier to fit a few small blocks into a pot than the awkward thing that comes out of a gallon bag. And they’re marked at the halfway point if I want smaller portions.
The two-cup version offers a different kind of versatility. I can freeze a cup of rice with a cup of curry chicken in its marinade, or just larger blocks of stock. I haven’t tried it, but because these trays are oven safe up to 415 degrees Fahrenheit, I could even build small lasagnas in them, bake, freeze, and save for later.
You can buy one tray, but I highly recommend getting the two-pack that comes at a slight discount. I only purchased one, and I regret not getting two from the get-go.