Freeze now to reduce party stress later

Care free parties and events require planning ahead for food safety.

Hosting a graduation party or other gathering of friends and family in late spring or early summer can be simplified by planning ahead. Many people prepare and freeze foods ahead of time to cut down on food preparation right before the big event. Keep food safety in mind during advance preparation to eliminate any potential problems. 

After preparation and before freezing, cool the foods, making sure they are not at room temperature longer than two hours. To speed the cooling process, divide food into smaller quantities and place the food into a shallow pan; limit the depth of food to two inches. Place the pan on a rack in the refrigerator to allow cold air to circulate around the entire pan. 

Once the food is completely cool, pack it into the freezer bags or freezer containers. Freezer bags are thicker than regular storage bags and will keep foods fresh longer. A flattened bag will freeze and thaw more quickly than a “rounded” shape. 

Be sure to label your foods before placing in the freezer. Write the name of the food and the date it was prepared. Add any special instructions for preparation when it is taken out of the freezer.

It is also important to correctly thaw the food. Michigan State University Extension recommends that food is never thawed “on the counter” at room temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be at a temperature where bacteria multiply rapidly.

There are several ways to safely thaw foods. Thawing in the refrigerator takes the longest time and requires advance planning. Take out the frozen foods several days before the event depending on the size of the package of frozen foods.

Thawing in cold running water (70 degrees Fahrenheit) is a quicker way to thaw foods but requires more attention. As an alternative, submerge the bag in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Keep the food in a leak proof package or plastic bag to prevent it from getting soggy. The food should be cooked immediately after thawing.

Thawing in the microwave, is another way to quickly thaw foods. Microwave ovens produce uneven heat, so you will need to stir or turn foods frequently. Foods that are thawed in a microwave oven must be cooked immediately after thawing. 

The last way to thaw foods is to cook them directly from the frozen state. Allow about 50 percent longer cooking time if you are preparing food from frozen. Be sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer to make sure the food is done.

Food that has preciously been cooked should be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Check the temperature in several places to make sure the entire product is done. 

Plan ahead now to reduce stress and have a safe and delicious party!  

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