Are you ready for the big freeze? If your regular freezer isn't cutting it and you're thinking of trying your hand at batch cooking, it might be time for a standalone freezer.
If you're planning to drop some serious cash on an upright or chest freezer, you'll want to make it worth your while. We asked CHOICE's freezer geezer Ash Iredale for his hot tips on keeping chill, both before and after you buy a freezer.
Here are Ash's top tips for getting the most out of your freezer:
- Making chips? One secret to super crunchy, delicious chips is to have the surface as dry as possible when it hits the hot oil. We normally say don't put food in the fridge or freezer until it's cooled down, but banging your parboiled chips in the super dry air of your freezer for 10 minutes can strip the moisture from them pretty effectively, giving you delicious, crunchy fries every time.
- Leftover wine, coffee or stock? Stick it in ice cube trays and freeze. If you need some stock for cooking it's already portioned out, or you can chill your wine or iced coffee on a hot day without watering them down.
- Feel the burn: freezer burn won't make your food inedible, but it's not particularly appetising. Keep it to a minimum by tightly wrapping or sealing everything you put in the freezer. Consider double-bagging if you're particularly diligent.
- Do you own a human child or children? Cut fruit into amusing shapes, put a skewer or icy pole stick into them and freeze them for a super fun, healthy summer treat. Likewise, if you have a surfeit of yoghurt with a looming expiry date, blend it up with some fruit and freeze it in an iceblock mould – it's like a regular iceblock, only healthy.
- Got leftover sauces? Portion them out into individual serves in ziplock bags, then lie them down flat to freeze – once frozen you can stand them up like a file card system, and you've got quick pasta sauce ready to go when you need it.
- Stop, rotate and listen: While food in your freezer is technically safe to eat forever, the reality often isn't the case, so when using your freezer it's good practice to rotate your stock, putting new things at the back and taking the old ones out to use first.
Protect yourself from food poisoning and food waste with this simple trick requiring a cup and a coin.
The coin trick
No, we're not suggesting you store your cold hard cash in the freezer. (But we wouldn't blame you if you did, based on the banks' bad behaviour of late.)
Let's say you've just returned home from a week's holiday and you notice all your digital clocks are flashing – it looks like there's been a blackout while you were gone. But there's no way of telling whether it was just for two minutes or two days.
If it's the latter then your frozen salmon may serve with a side of salmonella and your pochette's probably putrid, but if it's the former then you're fine. Do you need to throw away all that food just in case? Not with this simple trick.
Before you leave, freeze a cup or container of water. Then put a coin on top of the frozen water and put it deep inside the freezer.
If you get home and suspect there's been a blackout, check the cup. If the coin is still on top of the frozen water, then everything's fine: your freezer stayed frozen, even without power.
But if the coin's at the bottom of the container, you'll know that the freezer thawed enough for the ice to melt, allowing the coin to sink to the bottom.
CHOICE tip: Put several containers of frozen water at different points throughout your freezer so you'll know what's thawed and what hasn't. Fully laden freezers don't warm up evenly so you might be able to salvage some of your supplies.
Insurance for food spoilage
If the worst has happened and the entire contents of your freezer has thawed, you'll need to chuck everything and start again – an expensive exercise! But before you reach for the credit card, check your contents insurance: it may cover you for food spoilage if your fridge or freezer dies, temporarily or otherwise.
Of course, every policy is different, both in terms of the amount covered and the circumstances under which you can claim, so check your policy carefully. Cover for food spoilage typically ranges from $500 up to $2000.
But whether or not you're covered can depend on how your freezer came to be, well, unfrozen. Some policies will only cover you for appliance breakdowns or blackouts due to insurable events like floods and fires. And many policies offer coverage for motor burnout as an optional extra.
The good news is that, as a general rule, food spoilage doesn't incur an excess, so refilling your freezer might not cost you a cent.
Location, location, location
Think about where you're going to put your new freezer. Keeping it in the garage or any area that experiences significant temperature fluctuations can mean higher running costs or poor performance. Check our freezer reviews to find a freezer with good warm-up and ambient temperature scores.
It's also important to have your freezer set to the right temperature, and the best way to confirm this is using a fridge thermometer. It pays to check this regularly throughout the year to make sure your freezer stays at a stable temperature.
If you'd prefer to keep your freezer in the kitchen, you could opt for a 'pigeon pair' – a matching fridge and freezer. This configuration isn't all that common in Australia, but if you need more than average freezer space they could be a good option.
A full freezer is more efficient than an empty one, but you should still leave room for air to circulate for effective operation.