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How confident are you when it comes to the correct way to prep frozen food? From meat and fish to bread and vegetables, the kitchen can be a minefield if you’re not up to speed with the best practice way to cook food from frozen – but we’re here to help!
Whether you’re a chef looking to brush up on your knowledge, or an enthusiastic home cooker looking to improve the health and safety of your kitchen, our in-depth guide will take you through everything you need to know, including:
- The benefits of freezing food
- The best practice ways to safely defrost food
- The risks of incorrect food defrosting
- The foods that are safe to cook from frozen – and the ones that aren’t
What are the advantages of freezing food?
When it comes to popping your leftovers in the freezer for a rainy day, it seems a no brainer! But what are the other benefits to storing food in the freezer?
- Reduces unnecessary waste – Unless you are a savvy chef who can put leftovers to good use in a creative new way, the chances are most of us will end up throwing leftovers away after one too many days spent in the fridge. Freezing food straight away can go a long way towards a waste-free lifestyle.
- Convenience– There’s nothing quite like getting home after a long day and popping a delicious homecooked meal into the oven or microwave. When you freeze leftovers, you can save yourself the hassle of cooking something new, and instead enjoy a precooked meal in less time.
- Cost-effective – food isn’t cheap, so it makes sense to preserve your fresh produce for as long as possible to avoid wasting money on spoilt goods. Freezing food is an effective way of helping you to prepare food ahead of time and cook bulk meals on a budget without wastage.
How to defrost food safely
The correct way to defrost food really depends on the type of food you’re defrosting, however there are four common methods of defrosting food that you should know about:
- Defrosting food in the refrigerator
- Defrosting food in the microwave
- Defrosting food during cooking
- Defrosting food in cold water
It’s important to note that defrosting food at room temperature or in warm water should never be done as this can cause foods to become warmer than 40°F allowing bacteria to begin to multiply.
What are the risks of incorrect food defrosting?
According to the NHS food poisoning affects around 5.5. million people in the UK every year due to bacteria found within food. Whilst many people are concerned about what foods can be frozen, the biggest risk is actually in defrosting foods, not freezing.
Cooking food that has not been properly defrosted can pose a serious health risk if consumed – here are some of the most common bacteria found in poorly defrosted foods:
- E-coli– symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, high temperature, lack of appetite
- Salmonella– symptoms include stomach cramping, headache, high temperature, nausea, chills, bloody stools
- Campylobacter– diarrhoea, blood in stool, high temperature, stomach cramping
What are the benefits of eating food that has been cooked from frozen?
There are many benefits to cooking food from frozen, not least the resourcefulness and convenience. These benefits don’t just apply to foods that you have personally cooked and frozen either, in fact – buying food straight from frozen can be even more beneficial, and here’s why:
- Frozen food is typically more affordable than fresh. Whilst this can vary from product to product, it can save you a lot of money to substitute certain things from fresh to frozen
- Many foods can be cooked from frozen, meaning that you can benefit from the ultimate in convenience eating, without spending loads of money. Eating well has never been so easy!
- Healthy – generally foods cooked from frozen retain all of their nutritional benefits, so you don’t have to miss out on the vitamins and mineral on offer.
This blog will show you what you can and cannot cook from frozen.
What foods can be cooked from frozen?
With so many food groups out there, it can be tough to know which foods are safe to cook straight from being frozen, and which aren’t – let alone the best and safest way to prepare your meals.
From meat and poultry to dairy products and carbs, here you will find all you need to know about the best way to prepare your food, and whether or not its safe to cook them from frozen.
Can you cook meat from frozen?
Meat is a tricky one, cooked incorrectly and you can be exposed to a range of bacteria, however not all meat requires the same level of preparation, and when it comes to cooking from frozen its good to know how things differ.
When it comes to the safe preparation of poultry such as cooking chicken from frozen, the best practice is to allow the meat to fully defrost before cooking. This can be done in the fridge, or in the microwave on the correct setting (may vary depending on the microwave). Do not allow poultry to defrost at room temperature, as this can encourage bacteria to grow.
Red meat such as steak can be cooked from frozen, and many chefs actually say it tastes even better prepped this way as it is believed to retain more moisture. To prepare frozen steak you can simply start browning it on a hot griddle before popping them into a hot oven to cook. This method takes longer to cook at around 20 minutes but tastes just as good.
When it comes to safely defrosting pork, we advise doing so in the fridge, left in its original packaging. Depending on the weight of your piece of meat will determine how long will be needed for it to fully defrost, and this can vary between 3 and 14 hours.
Can you cook eggs from frozen?
No, eggs cannot be cooked from frozen. Whilst eggs aren’t typically a food we might want to freeze, it is possible to do so for things such as cakes and speedy scrambled eggs – however when it comes time to cook them, it’s important you first let them defrost.
Eggs should be left to thaw overnight, and this is best done in the refrigerator, although it is also possible to defrost eggs in a cold water bath.
Can you cook fish from frozen?
There are a number of ways to cook fish from frozen, with this being one of the most popular foods to cook straight from the freezer, particularly salmon and cod – so here’s what you need to know:
The first thing to note is that all frozen fish should first be washed under cold running water before cooking
One of the most popular ways to cook fish from frozen is straight into the oven for roasting. Brushing the top of your frozen fish fillet with oil and seasoning to your taste before popping it into a preheated oven for around 15-20 minutes. Times vary depending on the size of your fish.
You can also cook fish from frozen in the steamer, which is a convenient and healthy way of enjoying your food. Steaming fish from frozen is particularly time efficient only taking around 20 minutes to cook.
Can you cook bacon from frozen?
If bacon happens to be your go-to breakfast food, then you don’t have to worry – you can enjoy bacon straight from the freezer with minimal effort involved. We often get asked can you cook bacon from frozen, and how?! Whether you want to fry, microwave or bake your bacon – you can still do so from frozen, but here’s what you need to know.
If you are popping a pack of bacon into the freezer, be aware that they will freeze together, and these must be separated before cooking. You can combat this by freezing your bacon slices separately, however they usually will come apart with a little force.
Thanks to how thin bacon is, it shouldn’t require too much extra cooking time, however we advise allowing a few extra minutes when cooking to ensure the meat is properly cooked through.
Can you cook mince from frozen?
Can you cook mince from frozen? Most certainly! In fact, mince can be cooked from frozen and its pretty much the same as cooking it from fresh! Simply pop your frozen mince into a pan and keep it moving over a low temperature as it begins to thaw and separate. Once your mince has come apart you can turn the heat up and continue to stir the mince until evenly cooked. If you’re wondering how long it takes to cook mince from frozen – then don’t worry – it usually takes just around 10 to 15 minutes to cook!
Can you cook vegetables from frozen?
Fresh veg can be pricey and can spoil really quickly – so buying frozen veg or freezing fresh veg can be a smart way of preserving your stock and avoiding unnecessary waste. But can you cook veg from frozen, and how easy is it?
Surprisingly, there are plenty of veg options out there that can be eaten from frozen, no cooking required! Things such as sweetcorn or peas that can be easily tossed into a salad or pasta dish for a boost of goodness without the hassle of cooking.
However, if you are cooking your frozen veg, it is better to do so in a pan, as oven cooking and steamers can quickly lead to soggy veggies that are less than appealing!
Bear in mind cooking vegetables from frozen often takes less time than from fresh, so if you’re stir-frying frozen veg, simply cut the time in half!
Can you cook bread from frozen?
Frozen sliced bread can be cooked from frozen, and in fact it’s pretty delicious! However, there are some important things to point out about this! Frozen bread dough that has not been cooked cannot be cooked from frozen but must first be left to defrost.
It is always advisable to follow the instructions on the packet for the precise cooking times of your frozen bread.
Can you cook fruit from frozen?
Frozen fruit is highly popular, especially as toppings for porridge, thrown into a smoothie or for the perfect fruit pie filling. Fresh fruit is great, but it doesn’t offer a very generous shelf life and so can easily become wasted, so frozen fruit is certainly a popular option for many.
And the best bit? You can cook fruit straight from frozen – no need to defrost at all!
Can you cook pasta from frozen?
You can enjoy your favourite pasta cooked from frozen in the same way you’d enjoy fresh pasta. Simply pop it into a pan of water set to boil and stir gently. Depending on the type of pasta your cooking, times can vary but generally don’t take more than 8 minutes to cook.
Can you cook foods from frozen using a slow cooker?
Slow cookers are wonderful things, and can make cooking and prepping food a breeze – but can we cook foods from frozen using one? Unfortunately, the answer here has to be no. Whilst logistically foods can be cooked from frozen using this method, it is highly dangerous and here’s why:
- Cooking from frozen in a slow cooker can lead to the growth of bacteria before the food reaches a safe temperature. This is particularly true with meat.
- Heightened risk of food poisoning due to high chance of bacteria
Cooking straight from frozen can be an incredibly convenient and beneficial way of enjoying food, but it’s important to know the best practice ways of handling different food groups, and which foods require a little more time and attention.
By following our guide, we hope you have found some helpful pieces of information, and now feel confident to tackle your meals more efficiently whilst staying safe in the kitchen!