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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

freezer bag portion control

hat-tip to Lunchinabox.net - that blog appears to be fading away and may not be around to link to later, so here's my lazier version of her nifty trick

if you don't already know this one, here's the way i learned to freeze ground beef (sausage, any ground pork/chicken/turkey etc) in portions while only using one large plastic bag. never deal with trying to thaw and use several pounds of ground meat again.

1. place meat in bag. if you intend to season it, this is a great time to add the seasoning and squish it all around without getting your hands or a bowl dirty

2. flatten and remove the air. you can mash it down with your hands, a large plate, a rolling pin, a length of pvc pipe - whatever works for you. it doesn't have to be perfect, just fairly even thickness and as free of air as you can get it. try sealing the zipper on the bag almost but not all the way and then roll/squish from the bottom up to force the air out the gap.

make sure it's thin enough that it can defrost evenly or thin enough that you can cook it right from frozen. 

3. choose your tool. wooden spoon handle, chopstick, the back of a long knife blade - get creative. the meat's on the inside of the bag and unless you got really messy and got meat on the outside, it should be clean enough to use the edge of a notebook or whatever you have on hand. if you have nothing, use the side of your hand. it's effective, just not as pretty looking in the bag


wooden spoon handle

little bitty rubber scraper

i am rather fond of this flat wooden scraper with a straight, skinny handle. 

4. make a grid. i tend to go for 9 portions in a gallon sized freezer bag. yours can be any size


5. fold along each line at least once to make sure you will have an easy time breaking it later

6. freeze flat. since it's thin, it freezes really fast. the following pictures are of the same bag, after 2 hours in the freezer, rock solid frozen. to be fair, the freezer it was in is nicknamed the freezer of doom and can make ice cubes in about 20 minutes. but it's still faster in any freezer than a giant lump of meat, which is better for food safety

7. when it's time to use, just break a piece off. you may choose to break all the pieces to separate them from each other by dropping it on a hard floor or whacking the side of your fridge or cabinet with the bag. i broke this one early purely for photos tonight. 

 if you perforated it right, you can do this with one hand, as i did while holding the camera. not that you ought to.

when in doubt, apply percussive force, as seen in the video. your kitchen counter is tough enough to take it. if not, get a new counter!

if you choose to season it before freezing, may i suggest:

i like a mix of enchilada sauce, taco seasoning and a dash of tomato/chicken bouillon. 

taco: mix with your favorite taco seasoning and some enchilada sauce. break it up as it cooks for 10 minute taco meat

 we can just pretend i own oregano

italian: your favorite herbs and tomato sauce or paste. you can even mix chopped (small) veggie chunks and/or mushrooms in so you won't need to remember to have them on hand for pasta night

worcestershire sauce, montreal steak seasoning, a1, your favorite burger marinade

worcestershire sauce: i like my burgers seasoned this way. wendy's serves square burgers, so why not just cook them right from square frozen slabs?

extra beefy (or chickeny or whatever): if you mix some strong bouillon and powdered gravy mix right into the meat, it makes it own gravy automatically when you cook it - you may want to add a little water after browning and then simmer to thicken. if i ate mushrooms, this might be a good one to add them to

classic lipton recipe cheat: (not pictured) mix in a packet (or more, depending on the amount of meat) of lipton onion soup mix. i hear it comes out salisbury steak-like. (i'm allergic to onions so i haven't tried this one)

oh, cavender's, how i love thee!

greek style: for this i like a mix of 50/50 beef and pork personally, but you could use anything you want. to go a little more traditional you may want to use ground lamb. i find the key ingredient is the dry one - cavender's greek seasoning. it make a delicious faux-gyro.

this storage hack also works for barley, which i can only eat a little of at a time but is soooooo slow to cook that it's not worth making one portion at a time. 

basically anything mushy but not liquid can be done this way

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