What's The Longest You Can Keep Food In The Freezer?

Many foods can be stored indefinitely—but not all.

frozen peas up close
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Searching the caverns of my grandparents' freezer this past Christmas, I pulled out a Tupperware with a label that baffled me. The lid read "dumplings, 2003." Could it be? I brought it to my family, and we dared each other to take a bite. Shockingly, the dish was edible, albeit frostbitten and mushy.

Much to my relief, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, you can keep food stored at a temperature of 0°F indefinitely . While freezing doesn't sterilize food, it prevents bacteria from growing, making the freezer an almost magical place of preservation.

Since most folks won't enjoy 20-year-old leftovers, we break down the longest you can store different foods in the freezer and maintain their flavor and texture.

Practice good storage techniques to maximize the time foods can be kept in the freezer to prevent deterioration. While this will depend on the type of food, typically, ingredients should be removed from their packaging and sealed in an airtight bag or container.

Use a sharpie when freezing dishes to mark the date, too. This way, you’ll never be wracking your brain, wondering if it has been three or six months since you froze that shephrd's pie.

Keep in mind not all foods are meant for the freezer. Fresh ingredients like salads, raw eggs, and uncooked vegetables often become mush when defrosted.

Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and catfish last 2 to 3 months in the freezer, while lean fish like cod, halibut, and haddock can keep for 6 to 8 months.

Family-favorite frozen shrimp and crawfish can stay in the freezer for up to 18 months.

No matter the type, cooked fish lasts only 3 months in the freezer.

Meat and Poultry

After Thanksgiving, stock up on discounted turkeys since whole poultry, like chicken and turkey, can last a year in the freezer. Larger cuts like roasts, chops, and steaks can also keep for up to 12 months, which can also help budget-conscious shoppers when shopping for a deal.

Easter staple ham has a much shorter freezer life of 1 month.

Ground meat, including beef, turkey, and chicken, lasts three to four months. Deli meat and bacon should be thawed and eaten within a month.

Vegetables

Unlike other ingredients that can be frozen raw, veggies should be blanched before sending them to the freezer. A quick bath in boiling water, blanching helps preserve color and texture.

Use this technique for peas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans , potatoes , and okra. Even leafy greens like chard and collards can be kept in the freezer, though forget higher-moisture items like lettuce and cucumbers. Most frozen veg keeps well for up to a year.

While you won't want to defrost your frozen veg to toss together a fresh salad, throw frozen broccoli into a hearty soup, asparagus into a stir fry, or green beans into stew.

Fruits

Like vegetables, give fresh fruit a little TLC before sending them to the freezer to maximize storage. Blanch stone fruit, like peaches and plums; these will last 12 months.

Most other fruits can go in raw. Clean and slice the fruit into pieces. Arrange the dry fruit onto a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Place fruit into airtight containers and label them with a date to prevent noshing on freezer-burned fruit.

Berries can last up to 12 months in an airtight container. In comparison, apples and bananas keep for six months. Throw out any items with visible ice crystals.

Leftovers

Batch cooking and freezing a pan of homemade lasagna or a casserole to pull out on a busy weeknight is one of our favorite tricks for fast dinners. But you can also freeze things like leftover soups, desserts, even sauces.

Casseroles keep well for 3 to 6 months. Soups shouldn't stay stashed more than 2 months.

Desserts like cake, pie, and cookies are also ideal for storing away for future snacking or company. Frozen cake lasts 9 months , and cookies stay for 6 months.

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