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April 17, 2016 Comments (0) Kitchen Appliances

Basic Freezerology: A Complete Guide to Deep Freezers

deep freezer header

Two things have made it possible for Homo sapiens to completely and quickly dominate the planet. The first is the advent of agriculture, allowing for the development of cities. The second thing is the advent of food preservation. Without these, we would probably still be primitive hunter-gatherers, and would have never gone on to invent such wonderful things like YouTube. Today, one of the most widely used methods of food preservation is freezing. Can you imagine life without frozen pizza, frozen French Fries, ice cream, fish sticks, and TV dinners? The restaurant business would be completely different without frozen food. But it was a long time coming. Freezing is a relatively recent invention, and didn’t really get practical until the 1940s.

Freezers for Meat StorageBrandFeatures
GE FCM11PHWW
ge
GE3 storage baskets.
Haier HF71CM33NW
Haier
HaierGood for up to 250lb of meat.

 Basic Freezerology…

A Deep Freeze is not a very complicated machine, mechanically speaking. You have the body, which is just an insulated box with a lid, or doors, depending whether you have a chest type, or shelve type. Attached to the unit is an electric compressor, which moves the coolant through lines that remove heat from the interior by rapid evaporation. Basically, that’s all there is to it.

how deep freezers work

Basics: How freezers work.

Of course there are a few more parts, such as a thermostat to keep it at a constant temperature, an access panel to get to the working parts for maintenance and repair, and some even have a little light in them, that nobody seems to know if it stays on, or not….

There are two styles of deep freeze. One is a chest-type, like the one pictured. The other is a shelf-type, which is the same, only turned up on its side. Your food sits on shelves, rather than on the floor plate. Some people like the shelf-type because it is easier to find things in it. Others like the chest-type for its huge capacity. One is not any better than the other. It’s just whatever your preference may be.

Your deep freeze should be able to maintain a constant temperature of 0ºF, which is about right for hard-freezing foods for long-term storage. You can adjust the temperature usually between a range of 20ºF to -20ºF. Most newer deep freezes have automatic defrosting, which is very nice to have. Defrosting a deep freeze is not a lot of fun, but it needs to be done about every 6 months or so, unless your unit has auto defrost.

 

Some Other Things You Can Do With A Deep Freeze

fish frozen deep freezer

A deep freeze can be used for other things besides just food storage, Here are just a few of the more cool (sorry, couldn’t help it….) things a deep freeze can do:

  • When you get new cigars, place them in a ziplock freezer bag and freeze them for 3 days. This ensures there will be no Tobacco Worms hatching in your prize stogies later on……
  • If your computer hard drive goes on the Fritz, you can freeze it for 24 hours, and then immediately put it back in the computer. Oftentimes, this will allow you to salvage what is on it.
  • Keeping 1-liter or 2-liter soda bottles full of water in your freezer will help it keep a steady freeze, and use less power.
  • Freezing Saran Wrap before using it will keep it from sticking to itself, making wrapping a lot easier. It will still stick to bowls and such, just not to itself.
  • You can make your own TV Dinners, Frozen fish sticks, chicken nuggets, french fries, onion rings, chicken-fried steaks, etc… at home for a fraction of the cost of buying them. Just make them up, or bread them and freeze on a flat sheet until well frozen, then put them in freezer bags. (Note-some things may need to be par-boiled to keep them from turning black. Check online for proper procedures….).
  • Are you an artist? Need a break from working on that oil masterpiece? But you have all kinds of paint on your palette that will ruin if it is not used, and good oil paints are not cheap. Fret not. Simply wrap the palette in Saran Wrap or a large freezer bag and store it in the deep freeze until you are ready to get going again. Oil paints actually work better at lower temperatures, and will not freeze at the temperature of a deep freeze, but it will keep them from oxidizing.

There are a lot more things that can be done with a deep freeze. You will be surprised.

Being At Ease With The Freeze…

freeze vegetables

You can have the best freezer in the world, but it is still only as good as the person that is using it. You can’t just toss things in it and expect it to perform properly. Things have to be prepared for freezing. And everything does not respond well to freezing.

Things you can freeze:

  • Most fruits
  • Most vegetables
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Game Meats
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Sour Cream
  • Yogurt
  • Cheeses
  • Pizza and pie crust dough
  • Breads
  • Tortillas
  • Pancakes
  • Pancake batter
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Nuts
  • Flour
  • Coffee
  • Broths and Stocks
  • Sauces
  • Herbs

Things You Can’t Freeze:

  • The only things I know of that you cannot freeze are citrus fruits like oranges lemons and limes, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, etc… They turn to mush. But you can freeze their juices. Some things like apples, and potatoes may need to be parboiled before freezing, but they are fine to use in cooking. Also, melons do not freeze well, including cucumbers, unless you plan on eating them frozen. Then they are fine. But, don’t expect any frozen items to be the same as they were fresh. It’s a trade-off, but most frozen foods are perfectly fine.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, you should never freeze batteries. It will ruin them. It does not make them last longer.
  • Freezing Nail Polish will ruin it. Freezing nail polish to keep it from getting clumpy is folklore.
  • Freezing panty hose will not make them more run-resistant, but it may make your morning a bit more exciting when you first put them on……. Freezing panty-hose is more folklore.

A Few Freezing Tricks…

There are a few tricks to freezing some things to make them easier to use:

  • Bananas need to be peeled and sliced before using or they will turn black. You only want ripe bananas. Slice them into the size you want, or pureé them. If you purreé them, just add a little lemon juice, put the mash in a freezer-safe container and freeze. For slices, sprinkle a little lemon juice on them to keep them from turning dark, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze for an hour or two, or until they are frozen solid. Then, place them in a freezer bag and store for up to a year.
  • All vegetables should be parboiled before freezing, to avoid having them turn dark or mushy.
  • Cheese should be cubed or sliced prior to freezing, to avoid crumbling.
  • If freezing milk in the container it came in, pour a little out to allow for expansion. Otherwise, it may burst.
  • Eggs need to be shelled before freezing. One neat trick is to crack them into ice trays and freeze.
  • Meats should be portioned before freezing. Wrap them tightly in Saran Wrap, then place in freezer bags to protect against freezer-burn. Meats can keep for up to a year in the deep freeze. Always mark the packages with the meat name and date they were frozen.
  • If you plan to freeze pasta, be sure it is slightly under-cooked to avoid it becoming mushy when thawed. The same goes for rice.
  • Freezing nuts keeps the oils in them from oxidizing and becoming rancid. The same goes for flour and coffee.
  • Herbs will go limp and lose flavor when frozen by themselves, but if you put them in ice trays and cover them with olive oil, they freeze perfectly. Just toss in a cube or two while cooking. Garlic and onions can be frozen as-is, either sliced, or whole.
  • Broths can be frozen in ice trays. To use, just toss in a cube or two while cooking.

6 Things To Look For In A Deep Freezer

Frozen meat.

Frozen meat.

1. Where are you placing your freezer?

The first and foremost consideration when making the decision to get a deep freeze is the location you plan to keep it in. Keeping them on the back porch is not a good idea for several reasons. First, if you live where I do, with a healthy bear population, you will be feeding the bears, like it or not. Even if you lock the freezer, it won’t stop a bear. They will simply dismantle the entire freezer and chow down. And to add insult to injury, they will keep coming back to see if you’ve replaced it, and will get upset if you haven’t. Also, the freezer may not be able to maintain 0º F in the south, during the summer. The garage isn’t much better. It really needs to be in the house, where there is some temperature control, so the unit does not have to work as hard.

2. What type do you want?

Next, decide what type you want. A chest=type has more usable room, and a shelf=type is easier to organize, but uses more power, and things in the door shelves will not be at the same temperature as the rest. One is really no batter than the other, but a shelf-type usually takes up less actual floor space.

3. What size do you need?

Now, you need to figure out what size you need. They come in three standard sizes:

  • Compact. up to 9 cubic feet, great for an apartment or small cabin.
  • Medium. up to 18 cubic feet, it can hold enough for a small family.
  • Large. 20 cubic feet and larger, these can be big enough to walk-in. For home use, you probably will never need one larger than 25 cubic feet or so. This will hold a side of beef, and more, if it is processed right.

Remember, the larger the unit, the more power it will use. Figure out what size you need, or want, then buy the next larger size. You’ll see why soon after you start using it. You will freeze more food than you think, once you are able to…

4. Power: is it important?

Speaking of power, you really don’t have to worry about that much, unless you get a really old used unit. Most regulations require newer units to all operate within similar parameters. If you are really concerned about power usage, just be sure and get a unit with the Energy Star sticker on it, and you’ll be fine.

5. How long does it maintain freezing temperature if it loses power?

Another important consideration is how long it will maintain a freezing temperature if it loses power. It’s the Pitts, but power outages do happen. I have an emergency generator, so that’s not much of an issue with me, but you may want to check the specifications on a prospective model to see how long it will stay cold without power (assuming you do not open it). Most modern units will stay below freezing for 24 hours or more, which is fine.

6. Do you want manual or auto defrost?

Next, do you want a manual, or auto defrost unit? Most new units are all auto-defrost, but I have a manual. I don’t mind defrosting, because I am used to it. Your meat will be fine for the time it takes to defrost the unit. When it gets close to defrost time (I do it about twice a year…), I do not add anything else to the deep freeze, and try to use as much as I can from it. When it’s time, I unplug the unit. Whatever is still in there, I remove, and set it all in the sink or bathtub. I advise against using ice picks or ice scrapers on the inside of your freezer, because it will scratch it horribly. Most people will simply let it set for a few hours, and allow the frost to melt, but I am not that patient. I use a 1500 watt handheld hair dryer on high heat to melt the frost. It takes about 10 minutes. Then i just drain the water, wipe the inside with a 10% clorox solution, reload it, and plug it back in. While I am at it, I wipe down the outside of the freezer as well, and clean the shelves and baskets. Easy…. That’s why my 30-year old Whirlpool looks and works like a new one.

The Best Deep Freezer: My 3 Favorites Reviewed

Prices can vary greatly, but like most other things, you get what you pay for. Here are some of the best units I know of:

GE FCM11PHWW

GE FCM11PHWW

The FCM11 is Energy Star-rated and holds a respectable 16.5 cubic feet of frozen goodies. It has 3 lift-out baskets, an interior light, and a key lock. This is a great bare bones freezer with no frills. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, keep food at 0º F. And it does it well. While not the largest unit out there, it is plenty big enough for most families needs. Manual defrosting means less parts to go wrong. At 51” x 34” x 21”, it doesn’t take up that much floor space, and at less than $375.00, it won’t break your budget.

Haier 7.1-cu Ft Chest Freezer

Haier 7.1-cu

For those wanting a smaller freezer, the Hair may be just the thing. Don’t let it’s smaller 40” by 38” x 26” size fool you. It has a full 7.1 cubic foot capacity (and maybe a bit more if you do it right…). I have a friend that has one of these, and we have put 250 lbs. of meat in it. We had to re-arrange it several times to get the door to stay closed, but we did it. The Haier is big enough for most people, and won’t take over your house. One thing that impressed me with this unit was how quiet it was…much more than my Whirlpool. Sure, it’s manual defrost, and it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does exactly what a deep freeze is supposed to….keep food at 0º F. And it only runs around $350.00 brand-new..less than the cost of some refrigerators. For a basic unit to keep food in for up to a year, the Haier is hard to beat.

Frigidaire FFU21F5HW Upright Freezer

Frigidaire FFU21F5HW

Frigidaire is one of the big names in refrigeration and freezer technology, and they have the warranties to back it up. The FFU21 has a huge 21 cubic foot capacity, digital controls, frostless operation, and even has an alarm to tell if the door is open or the temperature is rising inside. The multiple shelves make it easy to find what you are looking for, and at 27” x 32” x 71”, it doesn’t need its own room. It only weighs 180 pounds, making it easy to move for cleaning behind and underneath it. The FFU21 has a price tag of around $700.00 new, so you won’t need to mortgage the house to get one.

Freeze, Please: A Little bit of History

Frozen Sausage...

The first methods of preservation were smoking and drying, and pre-date written history by a good bit. There is strong archeological evidence that smoking and drying meat goes back 100,000 years, and maybe even earlier. Sometime around 3000 BC, salting meat became popular, especially in warmer climates like the Mediterranean, and Middle East. Pickling was developed around 2000 BC in India.

That was all people had to preserve food until 1750, when enterprising individuals figured out a way to transport ice from frigid regions to more temperate ones without it melting so much. Of course, this didn’t work for everybody, because you would’ve had to live close to a source of ice, like the Alps, but they were on the right track. In 1853, an American named John Gorrie was awarded a patent for the first working ice-maker. Now, large blocks of ice could be transported from local ice factories in insulated wagons, and later trucks, to homes with insulated containers for food storage. These were called Ice-Boxes, and were the main method of food storage right up to the 1930s, and even into the 1950s in some areas. Many of us older folks (myself included) still refer to refrigerators as Ice-Boxes. In 1755, Scotsman William Cullen demonstrated that the temperature in an enclosed space could be significantly lowered by introducing diethyl ether into a low-pressure environment created with the use of a pump…enough to create ice. It wasn’t practical, but it was a start. Throughout the early years of the 20th century, many people came out with refrigerators using Cullen’s principles. They had separate compressors and pumps which were installed in the basement, with the actual food storage box in the kitchen. The first self-contained refrigerator was invented in 1914 by Nathan Wales of Detroit, Michigan. After 1918, several companies formed to mass-produce refrigerators, including the industry giant, Frigidaire. The first really popular refrigerator was the Monitor Top, made by General Electric in 1927. All of these early units used toxic gasses, but in the 1920s, Freon, a non-toxic gas, began to replace the more dangerous methyl formate as a coolant. During WW-II, in the US, large capacity separate freezers, known as ‘Deep Freezes’ were developed, and they became very popular after the war. In 2001, due to depletion of Earths Ozone Layer by HFC (HydroFluoroCarbon) coolants, a timetable was adopted to replace Freon, also known as R-22, with Puron, or R-410, which does not damage the Ozone Layer. As of 2015, Freon is banned from sale, or import in the US, and by 2020 will be illegal to posses, or use, even in old freezers.

Last Words on Deep Freezers

A deep freezer is one of the better investment you can make for your home. It will allow you to save a lot of money on groceries, and cut down on your trips to the grocery store, saving time and gas, as well as money. Soon after you acquire a deep freezer, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.

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