How Soon Can You Freeze Food After Cooking?

How Soon Can You Freeze Food After Cooking?

Are you in a hurry, and wonder if it’s good to store cooked food, just after cooking? Freezing cooked foods is indeed an excellent means to save time, ease cooking stress and reduce food waste, however, you have to follow certain steps, for a good outcome when you plan to eat it next.  

To ensure the food retains its taste and freshness, allow it cool quickly for 1-2 hours after cooking, as freezing hot foods can increase the temperature of the freezer, causing the other foods to start defrosting. Ensure to pack them into freezer bags and opt to freeze, freezer-friendly foods.

Freezing your leftovers is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to have a delicious meal on standby. However, if not frozen properly, the food may change freshness or come out mushy.

Here’s how to know which foods to freeze and when you should freeze them. 

When To Freeze Cooked Foods After Cooking?

Freezing portions of cooked foods after cooking is a great way to retain the freshness and flavors of extra food or leftovers and to enjoy them again when needed. However, some cooked foods or leftovers are not freezer compatible due to their texture, appearance,  and outcome from being cooked initially. 

Most times after cooking, we want to quickly freeze the cooked food, to help keep the taste and flavor, or we are in a hurry and need to chill the food quickly. You shouldn’t keep cooked food in the freezer immediately after cooking, as this will change and increase the temperature of the freezer, causing other foods to start defrosting. 

Instead, you need to quickly cool the cooked food first, before taking it to the freezer. You can quicken the process, by spreading the food out on a cooling rack, or serving it out from the heated pot to dish-ware and setting it under ice water. Remember food cools faster when spread out. 

frozen foods

When your food has cooled for about “1-2 hours”, package it neatly in a freezer or sealable bag, label it and store it neatly in the freezer. The freezer temperature should be 0°F or lower, to keep all food intact and perfectly stored till when you need it next. 

If you are pressed for time and won’t be available for the cooling process, you can spread your cooked food out, and store it in the “freezer compartment” of your refrigerator, ensure no other foods are being cooked there, and allow it to freeze before you’re back. 

Note: Doing this step too often can damage your refrigerator, thus do this when you urgently need it.

What Are Freezer-Friendly Foods? 

It may seem surprising, but some foods are better suited for freezing and reheating afterward, while some foods are not freezer compatible, especially for a long period, let’s run over examples of such foods. 

Foods To FreezeFoods Not To Freeze
SoupsGravies or sauce thickened with cornstarch or flour will separate during the freezing process. Although you can freeze the un-thickened sauce and add thickeners after thawing. 
LasagneFruits and vegetables with high water content, e.g watermelon, and lettuce become soggy when thawed. 
StewsCooked potatoes change texture when freezing
Pasta bakesFully cooked pasta, become mushy when frozen. Instead, freeze slightly undercooked pasta. 
CasserolesSome dairy products separate when frozen, e.g sour cream, milk, and light cream. 

Easy Steps To Remember When Freezing Cooked Food

Some steps to help guide you.

Step 1: Store Freezer-Compatible Food Only 

Ensure to freeze, foods that are compatible with being frozen and won’t change texture, appearance, or taste when kept in the freezer. Instead, you can store freezer unfriendly foods in the refrigerator, just remember to consume them quickly. 

Step 2: Quickly Cool The Cook Food First 

We love to use the freezer to store our meals because of longevity, they can last in there for months, but to ensure all the flavors are locked in, slightly cool the heated food first. After doing so, you can proceed to freeze it. 

Step 3: Pack Foods Into Freezer Bags

Some experts advise extra cooling in the refrigerator before proceeding to the freezer, you can do this as long you remember to take it to the freezer afterward. Store your cooked food in thin flat-shaped freezers or sealable bags, so they are stored perfectly and you can easily bring them out from the freezer. 

Step 4: Label and Stacking The Bags

It is great to label the cooked food with gummed labels or permanent markers, with the name of the food, storing data, and indicating special ingredients kept inside, this way you can easily know how to reheat the meal. Try not to overcrowd your freezer, and neatly stack the meals so it’s easier to remove.

Step 5: Thawing And Reheat Frozen Food

It is best to plan when defrosting frozen food, defrost in the refrigerator overnight or about 5 hours, and do not leave perishable foods to defrost at room temperature for risk of contamination. You can use the microwave for instant results, but reheat (cook) immediately to reduce the change of bacteria growth. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze food straight after cooking? 

Putting heated food in the freezer will increase the temperature of the freezer, thereby defrosting the foods inside. Instead, cook your food for an hour or refrigerate it before storing it in the freezer.

Can I leave the stew out overnight to cool? 

You shouldn’t leave stew out to cool for more than two hours. You can continue to cool your soup or stew in the refrigerator before freezing it later on. 

How do you freeze prepared meals?

Prepared meals should be packed in small portions, in the thin flattened shaped freezers or airtight bags, to freeze faster and be stacked orderly. 


This write has helped answer freezer-compatible foods to store in the freezer, how soon to store cooked foods after cooking, and the easy steps to prepare them for the freezer and back to your plate.

This way you can enjoy the same quality, flavor, and taste with your family or loved ones. Next time you’re wondering how to store your cooked food in the freezer, refer back to this article. 

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