“Flash” or “Open Freezing” Tutorial

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Open freezing is the process of freezing fresh produce, baked goods, and other foods in such a way that you can easily use only what you need instead of the whole package. It’s a great way to make the most of your time, effort, and grocery money and fill your freezer with homemade convenience items.

frozen blueberries on a lined tray

You’ve had such a fun day berry picking with the kids. You think, it would be great to stash a bunch of these berries away for the winter. Then we could enjoy berries for all kinds of recipes. 

Upon returning home, you carefully wash and package a large bag of berries, thrilled that you’ll have a source of sunshiny goodness for months to come.

A few weeks later you go to the freezer. You just want a handful of berries to throw into a smoothie. But, what the…? The berries are frozen in a solid chunk. One very large solid chunk.

You can either thaw the entire bag — and figure out what to do with ALL THOSE BERRIES right now! — or you can try to chisel off what you need and hope you don’t poke your eye out.

Surely there’s a better way to freezing foods so that you can conveniently use them later, right?

Right.

Yes, there is a better way and it won’t take long. What you’re looking for is the process of mimicking a commercially flash frozen process at home, otherwise known as open freezing.

The difference between flash freezing and open freezing

Scientifically, flash freezing involves cryogenic temperatures. Obviously, your kitchen is not that high tech. But you can approximate the “flash freezing” process at home; its technical term is open freezing.

The process is really quite simple. Freeze perishable food items in single layers on trays so that they are independently frozen, not clinging together in a frozen clump. Once they are strong and independent, you can package them together in a ziptop freezer bag or freezer-safe container and return them to the freezer for longer storage. In doing so, you avoid having to thaw a huge lump of something.

unbaked cranberry scones on a tray

Foods that are great for open freezing:

Flash freezing works well for a number of food items, besides the aforementioned berries. You can open freeze food items like hamburger patties, taquitos, sliced chicken strips, scones, cinnamon rolls, and chocolate butterhorns. Open freezing is also good for freezing a variety of fresh produce, like mushrooms, sliced onion, bell pepper strips, banana slices, cherries, and other fruits like pineapple or mango.

These recipes make good use of open freezing:

I regularly freeze all the above items. When I want berries for a smoothie or scones for breakfast, I just pull what I need out of the freezer instead of having to thaw an entire package of something. The scones bake up wonderfully first thing in the morning with very little work from me. Love that!

Open freezing foods at home: how to do it

  1. Prepare your food items: rinse the berries, form the hamburger patties, prepare the rolls, etc.
  2. Lay them out on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Be sure that your trays fit inside your freezer!
  3. Place the trays in the freezer, making sure the tray sits level.
  4. After 20-30 minutes or until the surface of the food item is hard, pull the tray from the freezer and quickly package the food into labeled freezer bags.
  5. Immediately return the bags to the freezer. Store the bags in the freezer until ready to use.
  6. Use only as many of the item as you need at a given time.

Practically speaking, I’ve found that my side-by-side freezer works best for flash freezing. Your mileage may vary.

Once you’ve frozen the food items individually, you’ll need to package them for longterm storage. Choose ziptop freezer bags that are thicker than regular ziptop storage bags or freezer-safe containers. These square freezer boxes make stacking easy.

pinnable image of frozen cherries and berries

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. When you freeze your scones … do you bake first then flash freeze? or freeze them before baking and bake them the morning you eat them?

    • I freeze before baking and then bake them from frozen when I want them. Just add some baking time if they don’t look crisp enough.

  2. Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Michelle says:

    I want to know how you make your taquitos, they look good

  4. I like to flash freeze cookie dough. Mix up the dough and scoop it out. Store in ziploc bags. Make it easy to make just a dozen of fresh baked cookies for a night time snack!

  5. Mini pizzas! I make them up when I am making pizza for dinner. I usually keep the toppings simple just cheese, or cheese and pepperoni, then the kids can add other toppings they like when we bake them.

    • Yum! Do you bake them first, or just freeze before baking?

      • @Jessica,
        Me again, I noticed Kristie explaining her families “pre-made pizzas”. I have a similar technique, and I “half bake” my pizza crust (appx. 10minutes- just enough to firm the dough, but right before it starts browning), then add toppings, THEN freeze- so when we bake them for dinner, the crust bakes through without over-browning or burning and the toppings have enough time to cook/melt. This also helps with shortening the bake time since you’re going straight from frozen, and it makes handling easier as well when topping.

  6. Just curious. What is pictured in the first picture? Thanks!

  7. Hmm, good idea. i never really thought of freezing breakfast items, no idea why… but spending a morning cooking breakfast for the week sounds like I really great plan… May have to do some tomorrow.

    • I know! It took me awhile to figure this out also. My kids don’t love egg casseroles — such a wonderful dish to make ahead, so I wasn’t thinking outside the box.

  8. I was intimidated by this process for a long time (much like my fear of making chicken broth). I finally tried it making a batch of toddler french toast sticks (from the onceamonthmom website). Worked great! I tried it on some mini zucchini bites and that turned out great too. Stuff like this keeps my little one from “starving to death” as he always seems to be. Just pop whatever I have premade in the microwave for 30-40 seconds and his snack is ready.

  9. I’m new to your blog and LOVE IT< LOVE IT!! It's so helpful and down to earth. I'm a homeschooling mom of 3 and I too live in San Diego! So in thinking this way, yesterday I made some garlic biscuits, from this recipe http://oldfashionedliving.com/biscuits.html . I sub'd the salt for garlic salt and added a pinch of garlic powder. I snipped some fresh basil from my garden and threw in too. Normally I just cook up the whole batch and eat it all (over indulging, but not wanting it to go to waste) so I cut all the biscuits out and froze half uncooked and cooked the other half for dinner. I'm hoping they turn out as good as the ones cooked last night!

    Also, you've inspired me to organize and cook ahead for the month..I'm so excited!

  10. AllieZirkle says:

    I actually flash froze hummus this weekend! I made a double batch (2 lbs dry beans), shoveled it into a bag and squirted into ice cub trays. These froze quickly, and then I popped these into a freezer bag. They’re working great for my daughter in her school lunch as a dip or cracker spread. They thaw quickly and stay colder (fresher) this way!

    • That is an awesome idea. Reminds me I should go thaw my hummus experiment. I wasn’t sure it would freeze.

  11. I’ve always wanted to try this, but now I know you can flash freeze cinnamon rolls, (without the frosting I presume) I’ve definitely got to give this a try!

  12. My mom swears by freezing food but I just can never figure out how to UNfreeze everything properly!

  13. I freeze scones to put in my kid’s lunchboxes for morning snack. I freeze them in individual baggies and then put them straight from the freezer to the lunch box and they’re just perfect for their 10 am snack!

    (Also all throughout the year whenever I make muffins or cookies or other treats I always take several out to freeze in baggies to have homemade treats for the lunch boxes rather than having to but stuff with lots of junk in them.)

    • Forgot to add–this is the best and easiest scone recipe!
      http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Simple-Scones/Detail.aspx
      I usually make it with 1 tsp lemon zest and 1/2 cup dried blueberries, but just recently started making it with orange zest and dried cranberries (last night I put chocolate chips in too.) I make a simple powdered sugar glaze to drizzle on top. For the lemon ones I use lemon juice and zest and powdered sugar and for the orange ones I use orange juice and zest. For the ones with chocolate chips I used cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk and OJ. yummy!

      (II also replace 1 cup of the AP flour with 1 cup freshly ground soft white wheat.)

  14. This is quite a bit after your original post, so I apologize, but I noticed you asked someone up there in the comments to give an example of what she would like to unfreeze when she was asking how to do it. If you were making cookies, chocolate chip I guess, would you defrost the dough in the fridge or on the counter or anything or just pop them straight in the oven and compensate with a longer cooking time? Thanks!

  15. Greetings! I came across this particular website while searching for answers on “freezing potatoes”. (I found a great deal on 20lbs of fresh spuds, but only 2 mouths to feed.). I just wanted to inquire if you ever experimented with freezing potatoes for mashing, roasts, fries, frying, baking, etc. I know you have to half-cook them before freezing- to keep them from “turning gray”. I was looking for some input, not necessarily a recipe (I have plenty of those). I have already made, froze, and cooked Baked Potato Pierogies from scratch and left-over mashed potatoes- with success! I also explore the world of Bisquick to make precooked “meat fold-overs” instead of purchasing HotPockets. These things heat well! Any take on how to roast prefrozen potatoes with other uncooked frozen veggies? Thanks 🙂

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  1. […] can also freeze the scones, baked or unbaked. Flash freeze and store in an airtight container in the freezer. If baking from frozen, increase baking time 5 […]

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