Have you ever frozen a bunch of meatballs (or something else....berries, veggies, chicken breasts) and then tried to separate them? If you are simply putting the items in a bag and freezing them, all the pieces are going to stick together. It can be a pain in the rear to separate the pieces...especially if you only want to use part of the bag!
This is where flash freezing comes in handy. It's very simple to do.
The most important item is a jelly roll pan. If you have a lot of room in your freezer, any ol' pan will do. But the jelly roll pan is great when you just have a few inches at the top of your freezer.
First you spread out your food evenly on the pan in one layer. Shake it up a bit, and you might be able to fit more on the pan. It's OK if the stuff touches a bit; the trick is one single layer.
If you are going to freeze raw meat, I suggest placing the meat in a simple non-zip baggie. That will keep the raw meat ickies away from your pan. It also helps if you will be vacuum packing* raw meat.
Next, place the pan in the freezer and freeze until it is rock hard (I usually leave it overnight). Don't forget about it though...or you'll get freezer burn!
Once it's all frozen, put the frozen food into bags....either freezer zip-style bags, or ones for vacuum packing. Squeeze all the air out of the bag...as much as humanly possible. Empty space in your bag allows for freezer burn.
To freeze sauces and liquids, place them in the regular ol' baggie. Place the baggie inside a more substantial container (yogurt container, Tupperware, etc.). Place the container in the freezer and leave it in there until it is solid.
If I have a thicker sauce, and have some "supportive" room in the freezer (door, ice area), I'll simply place the bag in the freezer, making sure it will stay upright on its own.
Once it's solid, leave the sauce in the baggie, and place inside a freezer zip-style bag, or one for vacuum packing. Again, squeeze all the air out of the bag...as much as humanly possible.
If you want to freeze meat with a marinade (like the chicken breasts to the right), you'll follow the same steps above. Just put the meat in with the sauce. Often I will first put these in a zip-style bag (as opposed to the baggies). Once they're frozen I open up a little bit of the zip top (allowing the air to be sucked out of the bag) and place this smaller bag into a freezer zip-style bag (or one for vacuum packing).
Sometimes I want to freeze a whole pan of something (casserole, mac 'n cheese, enchiladas, etc.). To do this, I get out a baking pan and line it with foil (heavy duty does work better; regular strength will work too!). Fill the pan with your food. Cover the pan with its lid or a sheet of foil. It doesn't have to be wrapped tight. Just a simple cover. Place the pan in the freezer, keeping it level (so the contents won't spill out). Freeze until solid.
Once it's frozen, turn the pan over, tap on the glass (OK.... I gently bang it on the counter a few times) until the casserole pops out of the container. Keep the foil on it. Wrap it tightly in heavy duty foil or saran wrap. OR....put it in a bag for vacuum packing.
If you've used foil/wrap, label the outside and stick it in the freezer.
If you're vacuum packing the container, put the container in the bag. A 9" x 13" or 8" x 8" casserole will need the wider 11" FoodSaver bag roll. A smaller 11" x 7" pan will fit in a smaller 8" Foodaver bag roll.
When you are vacuum packing a casserole dish, leave PLENTY of room at the top. A 9 x 13" casserole will need a bag about 20" long.
So, in a nutshell....all there is to flash freezing is this:
1) Place food on a jelly roll pan in a single layer.
2) Freeze until solid.
3) Place in a zip-lock style bag (or FoodSaver bag)
4) Remove all air.
5) Seal bag.
6) Label the bag (contents/servings/directions/date).
7) Freeze the bag!
If you are doing a lot of freezing, I highly recommend getting some sort of vacuum packing/sealing machine, like this FoodSaver model I have. It sucks all the air out, seals the bag, and protects the food in the freezer much longer than an ordinary container that allows more air inside.
Because the FoodSaver bags can be pretty spendy, I make sure to use them over and over...as much as possible. By placing my raw meat in a thinner/cheaper baggie, I'm keeping the meat from touching the bag, which keeps the FoodSaver bag cleaner (still needs to be completely washed though). I never re-use bags that have had raw chicken in them. I'm just not comfortable with that!
If you are vacuum packing something you'll want to use a few times (like meatballs), make sure you add 1" on to the length of your bag for each extra time you plan on getting into the bag/cutting it. So if you want to get into your bag of berries 3 times, you'll need to add 2" on (the final time you'll have nothing left in the bag!).
There are SO many advantages to using a FoodSaver (or other vacuum packing system) when you freeze foods. I'll have to devote an entire post to getting the most out of your FoodSaver!*
*It took me about 9 months, but here is that post!