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Storing food in the freezer

Knowing how to get the best out your freezer helps with meal planning and avoiding food waste. 

Freezing is a great way to store food. It will help you save money by planning ahead. And it will help you to cut the amount of food you waste if you get it in the freezer before it goes off.

If food is properly frozen it will stay safe to eat indefinitely, although after a time the taste and texture may suffer.

Whether you have a chest freezer or upright freezer, the principles of good freezing are the same.

What is the correct storage time and temperature for foods in my freezer?

Storage times for frozen foods differs depending on the type of food and type of freezer you have. Freezers have a star rating to let you know how long the food can safely be stored. You should check the star rating, as well as the instructions on packaged frozen food. This will allow you to work out how long you can store the packaged frozen food in your freezer. Also, be aware that freezers should ideally run at -18°C.

Freezer star ratings
* Frozen food compartment  Runs at - 6° C and should only store food for up to one week
** Frozen food compartment Runs at -12° C and should only store food for up to one month
*** Frozen food compartment Runs at -18° C and should only store food for up to three months
**** Freezer Runs at -18° C and is suitable for long-term storage (three months or longer)


Food you can freeze

Please note freezer storage times are for quality only. Frozen food will remain safe indefinitely if frozen properly.

Food type

Recommended freezing time frames (if your freezer runs at -18oC)

Uncooked meat  (roasts, steaks, chops etc)

4-12 months

Uncooked mince meat

3-4 months

Cooked meat

2-3 months

Cured meats (ham & bacon )

1-2 months

Uncooked poultry (chicken, turkey etc)

9-12 months

Cooked poultry

4 months

Fish-raw & cooked

2-4 months

Frozen dinners ( e.g. lasagne, pizza, shepherd’s pie)

3-4 months

Soups, stews and casseroles

2-3 months


Up to 1 month  


Up to 3 months

Grated cheese

Up to 4 months


Up to 12 months


Up to 6 months

Eggs – either separate the yolk and white, or beat the eggs before freezing

Up to 6 months

Cakes and baked goods without icing

6-8 months


Up to 3 months

Raw pastry

6 months

Food you can't freeze

Some foods simply are not freezer friendly.

Foods with a crumb base

These can go soggy when defrosted and reheated

Vegetables and fruits with a high water content, like lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, radishes and watermelons

These go limp and mushy

Soft herbs, like parsley, basil and chives

These will go brown

Egg-based sauces, such as mayonnaise

They will separate and curdle

Milk based sauces

They will separate

Plain yogurt, low-fat cream cheese, single cream and cottage cheese

These will go watery

Raw eggs in their shells

These will expand and crack

Hard-boiled eggs

These go rubbery

Canned foods


Top tips for using your freezer

1. Cool the food before you freeze it

Freezing food when hot will raise the temperature of the freezer and could cause other foods to start defrosting. Dividing the food into smaller parts can speed up the cooling process.

2. Wrap the food properly or put it in sealed containers

If you do not seal your food it can get “freezer-burn”. This means that water escapes from the food and moves to the coldest part of the freezer – leaving your food dehydrated. While this affects the quality of the food, it will still be safe to eat.

3. Freeze food in realistically sized portions

You don't want to have to defrost a stew big enough to feed eight when you're only feeding a family of three.

4. Label everything you freeze

If you don’t label foods or ingredients clearly, you might not remember what they are, let alone when you froze them. Buy a blue marker for raw foods and a red marker for cooked foods. Always add the date it was frozen.

5. Check the use-by date

Do not freeze any foods after their "use-by-date", because they will not be safe to eat.

6. Don’t let ice build up

An icy freezer is an inefficient one, so make sure you defrost your freezer if ice builds up. Don't worry about the food; most things will remain frozen in the fridge for a couple of hours while the freezer defrosts.

7. If in doubt, throw it out

Freezing does not kill bacteria. If you are not sure how long something has been frozen or are a bit wary of something once defrosted, don't take any chances.

8. Follow these steps to freeze fresh vegetables

  • Boil a handful of vegetables at a time for 30 sec in a pot of boiling water - this will stop them going brown when frozen.
  • Scoop them out into a bowl of heavily iced water - this is called blanching.
  • Once chilled, drain the veg and scatter them onto a tray lined with kitchen paper.
  • Freeze them on the tray and then transfer them to a freezer bag.
  • Cook the vegetables from frozen in a large pan of boiling water. Do not steam them, as they tend to go soggy.

How to defrost food safely

Most – but not all -  foods need to be defrosted before you can cook them. Here’s what you need to know to make sure that food is thawed safely.

1. The safest way to defrost food is in the fridge

  • Allow at least 24 hours for every 2-2.5 kg (4-5 lbs).
  • Once the food has thawed, cook or eat it within 24 hours. Do not refreeze it.

2. Defrost food in the microwave only if you are going to cook and eat it straight away

  • When you defrost food in the microwave it can get warm enough to allow harmful bacteria to grow. Cooking the food immediately will kill any bacteria, but if you leave it the bacteria will continue to multiply.
  • Be sure to check the microwave setting and time in your microwave manual.

3. Check the package before defrosting

  • Some food is best cooked from frozen. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on pre-packed foods.

4. Make sure poultry is completely thawed before you cook it

  • If poultry is still partly frozen when you start to cook, it will cook more slowly and might not reach a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Check whether the meat feels frozen by using a fork or skewer.
  • When defrosting a whole bird, make sure there are no ice crystals in the cavity.

5. Defrost raw food in the lower part of your fridge

  • Allow at least 24 hours for every 2 - 2.5Kg (4 - 5lbs). It is not safe to defrost at room temperature.

6. Defrost meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge

  • Put it on a plate away from other foods. When meat thaws, lots of liquid can come out, which can spread bacteria to any food, plates or surfaces that it touches. Keep the meat covered so that it can’t touch or drip onto other foods
  • Only defrost meat in the microwave if you're going to cook and eat it straight away.
  • Cook the raw meat within 24 hours of defrosting.
  • If you defrost raw meat and then cook it, you can freeze it again. Never reheat foods more than once.

7. Do not refreeze food that has defrosted

  • You should never refreeze food that has defrosted.

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