Everything you need to know in order to big-batch cook like a pro.
As the winter temperatures drop lower day after day, big batches of hearty soups, stews, and chilis have become more appealing than ever. But in many cases, soup making can be a time-consuming process of chopping, sautéeing, and simmering that doesn’t exactly lend itself to busy everyday life.
For the majority of us who don’t have the time to craft homemade soups daily, the freezer can be our best friend and secret weapon. Freezers can help save time and money while simultaneously reducing food waste, as most soup leftovers can keep for up to a month when properly stored in the freezer, compared to just a few days in the refrigerator.
However, nailing the proper freezing techniques can be a challenge for even the most experiences of soup makers. Follow this guide for proper soup storage and you’ll be meal prepping big batches like a pro in no time.
Rapid shifts in temperature can lead to food safety risks, so it’s imperative to let your soup cool completely before being stowed away. Not to mention, attempting to store a still-hot batch of soup could make the overall temperature of the freezer rise, causing the surrounding foods to defrost slightly.
In order to speed up the cooling process for those short on time, fill the sink with an ice water bath and lower your warm pot into it, stirring frequently to allow the heat to escape. With this method, you’ll guarantee that the soup has been cooled properly and will be safe to eat once reheated.
Prep and Store
Before filling, prep your zip-top plastic freezer bags by pre-labeling with the date and recipe name to prevent any confusion about just how long that batch of Smoky Ham and Split Pea or Tuscan White Bean Soup has been tucked away.
One method for filling your bags is to place the bag in the basin of a bowl, folding it over the edges to create a large opening for the soup to be poured or ladled into. Another handy tool for soup transfers is an empty cereal box. Place the freezer bag down into the box and fold the edges over the top, securing it in place. Use a ladle to transfer soup to the bag before zipping it closed and freezing it horizontally within the box. This will help create flat batches of frozen soup, which can be easily be stacked once solid, saving on freezer space.
If you’d prefer to store your soup in individual portions, rather than as a big batch, utilize a large muffin tin. Freeze the muffin-sized soup portions until solid before popping them out and transferring to a freezer safe bag. Smaller portions can also be stored in quart-size freezer bags—compared to gallon-sized bags for larger batches.
Regardless of the size of your container, be sure to leave an inch of extra room in the bag or Tupperware, as liquids expand once frozen. If the container is filled to the brim, there is a chance it will break open after the soup freezes. Let out any extra air before zipping closed to prevent freezer burn.
While soups that contain pasta like Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup and Italian Sausage and Pasta Soup are cold weather favorites, pre-boiled pasta won’t hold up well to freezing and reheating. Instead, make your soup separate from the noodles, and boil fresh pasta to be added to the dish when reheated. The same rule of thumb applies to grains, like rice and quinoa.
Soups that call for the addition of cream or milk tend to separate during reheating, resulting in a grainy texture. If possible, hold off on adding dairy products to the recipe until the reheating process to prevent this separation from happening.
For vegetable and potato-heavy soups, like Chunky Vegetable and Hearty Potato Soup, slightly undercook the veggies before freezing to prevent them from getting mushy when reheated. They will finish cooking during the reheating, resulting in tender vegetables every time.
When you’re ready to reheat and eat, thaw your soup overnight in the fridge so that it’s prepared to go into the pot the next day. To get started on your soup freezing journey, try out some of these cozy soup recipes, Big-Batch Chili, or a hearty Beef Stew.