Savannah Valley District

Freezing Prepared Foods

Christine Patrick, County Extension EFNEP Agent

Preparing food ahead of time and freezing it can save time, add variety to your menu, offer quick meals for unexpected company and provide nutritious choices for busy days. When you are preparing a main dish, it takes only a little more effort and time to make enough for several meals. You can freeze all of the prepared food in meal-size packages or serve part of the food immediately and freeze the rest. While there are great advantages to freezing prepared foods, the cost of packaging, energy use, and freezer operation cost can be expensive. Cooking, freezing, and reheating require more fuel than cooking from scratch. Prepared foods have a relatively short storage life compared to frozen fruits, vegetables, and meat. Consider freezing the following:

  • Leftovers that cannot be used immediately.
  • Foods that take a long time to prepare.
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Foods you can prepare in quantity.
  • Foods that still taste good after storage.

 Hints for Freezing

  • Select only fresh, high-quality ingredients because freezing does not improve quality.
  • Slightly undercooked, prepared foods. They will finish cooking when reheated.
  • Cool foods quickly before packaging. Place the pan of food in a large pan of ice water, crushed ice, or ice cubes. Stirring will help cool the food faster.
  • Freeze food promptly as soon as it is cooled to room temperature.
  • Put no more unfrozen food in the freezer than will freeze within 24 hours. Usually, this is 2 or 3 pounds per cubic foot of freezer capacity. Stack the food after it is frozen.
  • Plan to use frozen prepared foods within a short time. Keep using food from the freezer
  • and replenish with fresh stock. This makes greater use of freezer space, lowers the cost per pound of food stores, and keeps your store of food fresh.

The Christmas holiday season can be super busy! Shopping, parties, and entertainment are added to our already crazy schedules. Baking cookies, cakes, and pies are a strong holiday tradition, and preparing them in advance is a great way to deal with the last-minute holiday rush. If you are planning to bake this season and are looking for a method to prepare now and serve later, freezing is a great option. Freezing will not improve the quality of most foods, but when done properly can yield excellent results. For safety and best quality, frozen foods should be prepared using high-quality ingredients, while following methods specific to your recipe, and freezer temperatures should be maintained at 0 °F or below.

The following recommendations detail freezing methods and materials for a few popular holiday treats:

CakesShortened – Prepare and bake as usual in layers or a loaf pan. Cool. Remove from pans and wrap tightly. For best results, freeze the cake and frosting separately. Thaw cake in wrapping at room temperature. Add icing and serve. May be frozen for 2-4 months.

Angel food, chiffon & sponge cakes: Bake thoroughly and then cool.

    • Bake thoroughly and then cool.
    • If frosted: Freeze before wrapping. Fudge frosting and powdered sugar icings made with fat freeze well. When it the time to serve frosted or filled cakes, unwrap and thaw them in the refrigerator. Cooked, candy-type frostings may stay soft and creamy between layers but often crack and crumble on the outside of the cake. Do not use egg white frosting.
    • Unfrosted: Wrap and freeze. Place in a container that will prevent crushing. Thaw in a wrap on a rack for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature. If wrapped in aluminum foil, thaw at 300 °F for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • For best quality freeze Egg-white cakes for 6 months or less; Whole-egg cakes for less than 4-6 months and Egg-yolk cakes for 2 months or less.

Cupcakes – Prepare as usual. Cool completely before wrapping. Package. Thaw at room temperature (takes about 1 hour). If unfrosted, thaw in aluminum foil, at 300 °F for 10 minutes.  Cupcakes will retain the best quality for 2-3 months in the freezer


    • Baked – Prepare and bake per recipe. Cool thoroughly. Package in foil or a rigid container with two layers of waxed paper between cookies. Thaw in containers at room temperature. Remove from containers and serve.
    • Unbaked – Refrigerator cookies: Form dough into rolls. Slice if desired. Package in moisture and vapor-resistant paper. Drop cookies: Drop them on a sheet or just package bulk dough.     Thaw the dough in the refrigerator. Firm cookie dough may be sliced before completely thawed and baked.
    • Cookies retain the best quality when frozen for less than 6 months.


    • Baked Fruit, Mince, and Nut pies – Make as usual. Cool rapidly. Freeze before packaging. Pies are easier to wrap after freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator or let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then heat in a 350 °F oven until warm, about 30 min. May be frozen 3-4 months ahead.
    • Unbaked Fruit, Mince, and Nut pies- (unbaked fruit pies have a better fresh-fruit flavor than frozen baked pies, but the bottom crust tends to get soggy). Make as usual except add 1 extra tablespoon flour or tapioca or ½ tablespoon cornstarch to juicy fillings to prevent boiling over when pies are later baked. Do not cut vents in the top crust. Steam and cool light fruits before making pies. Freeze in the pan. Package. Fruit fillings may be thickened and cooled before adding to the crust. Unwrap and cut vent holes in the upper crust. Put the pan on a cookie sheet. Bake without thawing at 450 °F for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 °F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the top crust is brown.
    • For optimum quality freeze Fruit and Nut pies for 3-4 months or less and Mince pies for 6-8 months.
    • Chiffon – Make with a gelatin base. Freeze before wrapping to keep the top from sticking to freezer wrap. Unwrap; thaw in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Best if frozen for less than 2 weeks.
    • Pumpkin – Prepare pie shell and filling as usual. Have a filling cold before adding it to the unbaked chilled pie shell. Package same as fruit pies.  Bake without thawing at 400 °F for 10 min. Then reduce to 325 °F to finish baking. Freeze for 4-5 weeks.
    • Fruit pie fillings – Make as usual. Package. Leave headspace. Thaw just enough to spread in the pie crust. May be frozen for 6-8 months.

For more information on freezing prepared foods, see the following fact sheet on Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center- .

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