6 Tips for Batch Cooking Success | 6 Batch Cooking Recipes
I love batch cooking. It is a great way to make sure a delicious home-cooked meal is always at hand. Batch cooking refers to cooking up large quantities of a recipe, and saving some or all to be reheated and eaten at a later time. I like to batch cook and freeze, especially soups and stews; it is awesome to pull out a delicious stew from the freezer on a busy weeknight. I also will freeze items that we do not end up finishing, packaging it up to freeze before it goes bad, so it can be enjoyed at a later date.
6 Tips for Batch Cooking Success
There are a few things to keep in mind when batch cooking. Below is a list of 6 tips to ensure success every time.
I prefer using glass for food storage whenever possible, both to decrease plastic use and my family’s exposure to plastics. Storing food in the refrigerator in glass is easy, use a quality glass container with resealable lids, including mason jars. It is also possible to freeze in glass, however, it is important to be sure to leave enough space at the top of the container. Liquids expand when frozen, and I will tell you from experience, there is nothing worse than cleaning up broken glass (and the container’s contents) in the freezer. If freezing in plastic, use plastic containers or re-sealable plastic bags that are marked “freezer-safe”. Freezer temperatures can cause plastic to deteriorate, possibly leaching unwanted chemicals into our food when thawed.
This aromatic rice pilaf recipe can be made any time of year. To reheat, place in a pot, cover with lid, and cook over very low heat until warm. If it sticks, add a small amount of water.
2. How to Freeze Food
Food needs to be cooled completely before freezing. Refrigerators or freezers cannot cool down food fast enough to be food safe (preventing bacterial growth). The best way to cool down a large hot pot of soup or stew is putting it in an ice bath. To do this, place the pot of soup or stew to be cooled in a sink filled with ice, or in a large bowl filled with ice. Stir every few minutes to help along cooling. When completely cool, pack into container for freezing.
To reheat chili, place in a pot with lid, and cook, covered, over very medium heat until boiling. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. What to Freeze, What to Not
Check out this comprehensive list for what freezes well. A couple of big ones: Dairy does not freeze well; it tends to separate when reheated. If freezing a dairy-based soup, it is better to freeze the soup without the dairy and add it when reheating. It is also best to avoid pasta in a soup that is destined for the freezer, as it will turn to complete mush when reheated. Plan to cook the pasta separately while reheating the frozen stew, then add it in.
These salmon patties freeze beautifully, uncooked, and are a terrific thing to have on hand. To heat up frozen patties, broil for 7-10 minutes until heated through and browned.
4. Label Label Label
I am an expert on NOT labeling things! So many times I have tossed a container into the freezer, telling myself I would SURELY remember what was inside, only to pull it out later, puzzled by the containers contents. You WILL forget what is in the containers, and definitely not remember when it was made. So label your food, with contents AND THE DATE. I often use a sharpie to write right on the container (glass or plastic) This handy chart will tell you how long things last frozen, generally 3-6 months is my rule for prepared foods. Beyond that is the risk of freezer burn (and freezer flavor). Pro-Tip: Keep a written list of what is frozen tacked to the fridge, and update it as you take things out to enjoy.
To reheat chicken, place in a pot with lid, and cook over very medium heat until boiling. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. The Right Equipment
Cooking in batches requires the proper equipment. If you are cooking up soup for 8-10 people, most large soup pots, like a 6-quart one, should do the trick. However, if you are planning on going big, make sure you have a pot to fit the job. There is nothing worse than prepping everything and realizing that it is not going to all fit in the pot.
This stew recipe makes six servings, as written, and can easily be doubled. Reheat gently over the stove, adding a bit of water if necessary to loosen it up and prevent sticking. While the stew is heating, whip up a fresh batch of Cilantro-Lime Gremolata.
6. Start Small
It can seem like a great idea to whip up three big pots of stew in an afternoon, but the task can quickly become overwhelming. Remember, when making big batches of things, it does take more time: more time to chop the vegetables, more time for things to come to a boil. This is not meant as a discouragement, but an encouragement to think through the game plan thoroughly before starting.
I love keeping some of this delicious dip in my freezer. It is perfect to pull out last minute when heading to a party and takes just an hour to thaw at room temperature.
What are some of your favorite batch cooking recipes?