A Brief History of Frozen Food
Frozen food has been around since 3,000BC, when the ancient Chinese started using ice cellars to preserve food through the cold winter months and beyond. The Romans also used to store provisions in compressed snow in insulated cellars. So, at least in principle, frozen food has been with us for a long time!
The modern frozen food industry, however, only dates back to the early 20th century when Clarence Birdseye - fur trading in Labrador, Canada in 1917 - observed how local inhabitants preserved fresh fish and meat by letting it freeze rapidly in the cold Arctic temperatures. He also discovered fish left over from a previous expedition that had been preserved by the intense cold. The locals had discovered that freezing made it possible to preserve products at the very peak of quality, while at the same time locking in all their freshness and taste.
Birdseye brought the idea back to the United States where he spent years perfecting the process we now know as quick freezing. Quick freezing is a technique where each individual food item or small groups of produce is rapidly frozen at extremely cold temperatures in order to obtain small ice crystals so that the food cells are not damaged. The rest, as they say, is history...
Click here for more information on the history of frozen food
• Post-war Britain. The first frozen ready meal
• 1970s. Frozen food – A family staple
• 1990s. Frozen food – Quality in a recession
• 2000s. Frozen or fresh?
Facts on Frozen Food/Food Safety
Storing, defrosting and cooking frozen foods safely
Freezing is an excellent means of preserving food. This section will provide you with an introduction to on how to get the most from your frozen foods through proper storage and defrosting. For more detailed information see how to get the best from frozen food
How does freezing preserve foods?
• It's impossible for bacteria to multiply on frozen food - which makes it safer than any other form of food preservation.
• Many foods today are 'quick frozen'. This is a process, which freezes the water in the food into smaller ice crystals, minimizing cell structure damage. Quick-freezing foods and then storing them at temperatures -18°C or lower slows the natural degradation process practically to zero.
• So, make sure you store your frozen food correctly, and it will retain its colour, texture, nutritional value and taste.
Storing frozen foods
• All foods can be safely frozen, but some foods should not be frozen for quality reasons.
• Food stored consistently at -18°C or lower will remain safe indefinitely.
• Most domestic freezers should operate at temperatures -18°C or lower. As a general rule, if your freezer can't keep an ice cream block solid, its temperature is above the recommended level.
• Always refer to the on-pack 'best before' date. The manufacturer's 'best before' date is a quality indicator and is the date until which the product will remain of peak quality (when stored at -18°C or below). For storage in a 3-star or 4-star freezer manufacturers will normally recommend 'store until best before date'.
• After the 'best before' date a reduction in eating quality may become evident, whilst the product remains safe to eat.
• Try to rotate foods; putting newly purchased items at the back of the freezer so older items are used first.
• Freeze your food in appropriate containers, for example, freezer bags and airtight containers.
• Most foods obey the rule 'the colder the better'. Domestic freezers have a star rating indicating the temperature they are designed to operate at.
For information on frozen food and freezer star ratings click here
On the packaging of a frozen food item there is often guidance stating how long the food can be stored using freezers of a given star rating. As a list guide here are some suggested MAXIMUM storage times of frozen foods at -18°C.
• Benefits of pre-packaged frozen foods
• Ways to keep frozen food fresh
• Safe ways to defrost frozen food
• Cooking food from frozen
• Refreezing thawed frozen foods
• Storing thawed frozen foods
• What to do if your freezer fails
The Pressing Problem of Waste
How frozen food can help
There's no doubt that food waste is a hot topic in the UK at present. At the same time, we're living through the most serious economic crisis of recent times. Both issues have an obvious link to thrifty and responsible housekeeping.
Some startling facts...
WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Plan) is a government agency dedicated to understanding the population's patterns for disposing of waste and evaluating the benefits of recycling. They've recently published some startling and persuasive facts:
• In the UK, we throw away around one third of the food we buy.
• Of that 61% or 4.1 million tonnes of food waste a year was avoidable.
• The most common reason for food being wasted is that it's left unused - 61% of the avoidable food waste or 2.5 million tonnes.
• Of this, 40% - almost one million tonnes - isn't even touched and at least a tenth - 340,000 tonnes - is still in date.
• We also cook and prepare too much, resulting in an additional 1.6 million tonnes of food waste a year.
• UK households on average pay for £420 of food every year that could have been eaten but instead is thrown away.
• Every tonne of food waste is responsible for 4.5 tonnes of CO2.
• Between us we throw away around 6.7 million tonnes of food every year - roughly one third of all the food we buy. Most of that food (61%) could have been eaten if we had planned, stored and managed it better.
• In the UK we thrown away 1,405,000 tonnes of fruit, vegetables and salad.
Some useful tips...
Here are some tips on how you can make a difference.
• Keep your grocery shop regular (eg. once a fortnight) and buy in bulk
Frozen food can help here. Buy perishables daily but only to supplement the core meals that come from frozen. Cook two or three extra portions of any one recipe at the beginning of the period and then immediately freeze the extras.
• Plan your meals in advance
Sticking to a plan stops you coming home from the supermarket with a load of food, but no real idea of what you are going to cook. Planning won't just cut back on waste - it will save you a lot of time and money as well!
• Plan your shopping list
Having planned your meals, this is the next logical step. Make a list and stick to it! The facts above are telling in this respect - 340,000 tonnes of food every year that is completely edible, yet never makes its final destination.
By planning in advance what you're going to eat, you can buy frozen food and know what it is that you're going to cook three or four days away. Contrary to popular belief, there's a huge range of frozen foods that cover nearly every food range. The chances of getting bored with the same thing are pretty low!
• Use and understand your freezer
You really can buy almost anything in frozen form - from herbs through to meat, bread through to cakes or fish. Correct care and maintaining your freezer will become your most useful tool in the fight against waste.
• Make sure you get your portion control correct
By only cooking what you need straight from the freezer, you will get your portion control more accurate. Also, remember that world food prices are going up. The more we waste, the faster they will rise. So work out what you eat in terms of weight, and make a note for future reference. Eventually it will become second nature!
• Use your leftovers - don't throw them away
The freezer and Tupperware are the two best things that ever happened to waste management. Make the most of both of them, and you'll always have a freezer full of frozen uncooked food and frozen leftovers ready for reheating!
• Don't shop hungry
Feeling hungry will tempt you into buying a whole load of stuff you don't really need or want! By shopping soon after you've eaten, you will become a lot more discerning with your grocery shop.
• Think of ways to cut down on packaging
It's not just food that we waste... the packaging it comes in is now also proving to be a massive burden. Major supermarkets have recently been told by the government that they must look at ways to reduce packaging. By thinking green and considering the frozen alternatives, you will naturally reduce the amount of packaging waste that you generate.
Frozen food makes it easy
In most cases, cutting back on waste isn't much more than common sense! It certainly needn't take up too much time or effort. Just apply some of the basic rules above, and make sure that you plan ahead when you're shopping for food. You'll make a difference in the long run and you'll start saving yourself money straightaway!
Frozen food - whether you buy it frozen, fresh or chilled - will help you here. Not only can its quality and convenience make shopping, and cooking, a whole lot easier, it will also help you cut down on a lot of the unnecessary wastage that our modern lives generate.
Find out more about the top environmental aspects of frozen food
Top Environmental Aspects of Frozen Foods
Reduces food wastage
Frozen food helps reduce food wastage, as you only take out what you need and save the rest for another day! UK consumers throw away about 1/3 of the food they buy, so there is great scope for improvement. WRAP states that if people stopped wasting food which could have been eaten, it would have the same impact on carbon emissions as taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads.
Reduces individual carbon footprint
By buying frozen food with its longer shelf life you could make fewer trips to the supermarket by car. Doing so would reduce your individual carbon footprint.
Your freezer uses less energy if it is kept stocked up. Also by placing the freezer as far away from the cooker/fridge as possible will help to make it run more optimally, as keeping it close increases energy usage. It is even better to have a separate chest freezer in the garage or a separate room. For more information on understanding your freezer click here.
All nature’s crops can be harvested and used
In times of abundant supply freezing crop, such as peas, can ensure the entire crop is available for sale. Sometimes excess fresh cops need to be ploughed back into the field or left to rot simply because of its short life.
The vast majority of frozen seafood companies use sustainable fisheries to source their products; by buying frozen you contribute to making seafood more sustainable.
Due to its longer shelf life, frozen food potentially requires fewer deliveries to supermarkets; hence frozen food may have fewer trucks on UK roads.
Why buy frozen fish?
Fish and seafood begins to decline in quality immediately after catching, so freezing as soon as possible retains quality and seals in freshness. Frozen fish found on our supermarket shelves is largely frozen out at sea on board the ship otherwise it is frozen in port within hours of catch. Frozen fish can therefore be fresher than fresh fish – click here to see how frozen can be fresher than fresh comparisons.
• Freezing fish and seafood provides premium quality all year round.
• As with other frozen foods, buying frozen fish allows you to use as much or as little as you want and reduces waste.
Purchasing frozen fish and seafood can be up to 25% cheaper than fresh - providing great value for money!
• Thanks to freezing technology you can enjoy all types of fish and seafood regardless of the season and at affordable prices throughout the year.
• Frozen fish and seafood offers improved nutritional benefits to everyone in your family.
• Using frozen fish and seafood offers complete meal flexibility.
• Frozen fish and seafood offers consistently high quality, year round price stability, and a hugely extended shelf life.
• Fish and seafood sourced in its most sustainable and natural environment and then frozen in the shortest possible time ensures maximum freshness and ultimately the highest quality.
• Helping the environment - buying frozen fish and seafood reduces carbon footprint because fresh exotic fish has to be flown into markets daily from all around the world.
• Fish and seafood is recommended as part of a nutritionally balanced diet, and freezing allows year-round availability, making it easier to include as part of a healthy diet.
• Freezing stops all microbiological activity; including pathogens which cause food poisoning, and spoilage - keeping everyone in the family healthy and in tip top shape!
For further information on frozen fish please click here
Why buy frozen meat and poultry?
Although meat and some poultry improve with age and hanging, freezing meat and poultry offers you many benefits. It allows busy you to manage portions and reduce waste in the kitchen.
• Freezing is a natural process, which does not require the use of preservatives.
• The majority of frozen meat and poultry is quick frozen to maintain freshness, tenderness and flavour.
• Many meat and poultry products are pre-prepared, and frozen which allow your kitchen to run hassle free!
• Most frozen meat and poultry can be cooked from frozen which reduces waste and is convenient!
• Frozen meat and poultry has a hugely extended shelf life. Click here to see how to best freeze meat and poultry
• Ensuring healthy meals, freezing stops the growth of harmful microbes and pathogens, which cause food poisoning and spoilage.
• The majority of frozen meat and poultry is individually quick frozen which means reduced waste because you can use as much or as little as you want - especially true for diced and minced products.
• Frozen meat give you the advantage of seasonal quality all year round - for example, during certain periods of the year, frozen New Zealand lamb may be preferred to fresh lamb reared in the UK. Frozen game can be purchased all year round, something very difficult to achieve with fresh. Frozen fruits can be enjoyed out of season as milk shakes and smoothies
• Frozen pre-prepared meat and poultry products offer more consistent quality every time.
• Using frozen meats give you and your family a complete meal and menu flexibility.
• Some pre-prepared frozen products are better than fresh as freezing and cooking from frozen ensures the integrity of the product - for example, frozen Chicken Kiev encourages the filling to remain within the product.
Why Buy Frozen Pasta and Rice?
Frozen pasta, rice and pizzas are convenient and quick to cook. Popular with all ages, pizza and pasta can be used for snacks and starters as well as main courses. With the long shelf life and variety, you are always guaranteed quality from your freezer - perfect for those last minute meals!
• Frozen Pasta has a greater shelf life than fresh pasta ensuring minimal household waste, can be cooked straight from the freezer and tastes as good as chilled pasta and is better value. For more information about frozen pasta click here
• Frozen Rice reduces the cooking time greatly, can be a safer alternative to reheating pre-cooked rice, is simple to cook and requires little preparation and reduces the cooking time greatly. For more information about frozen rice click here
• Frozen Pizza is shown to be preferred by consumers in blind tasting over chilled, is popular with all the family and always convenient for a back-up meal, has a longer shelf life and allows for greater flexibility. For more information about frozen pizza click here
Why Buy Frozen Potato Products?
In any season and at any time of the day, potato products are highly popular with all the family. Frozen potato products offer flexibility in cooking, are great time savers and offer consistent product quality every time with little effort and waste. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and complex carbohydrates in the form of starch. They also provide us with protein, fibre, iron and other vitamins, including folate, potassium and vitamin B6.
• oven chips contain fewer calories than low fat chocolate – at 162 calories compared to 297 calories in a bar of low fat chocolate. Thick chips absorb less oil than thin ones so chunky chips are healthier!
• frozen chips are not as bad as you think! There is 4.2g of fat in a 100g portion of oven chips – less fat than a small pot of natural yogurt at 4.5g fat, just 10 peanuts at 5.99g fat or a serving of Caesar salad (without croutons) at 23.4g fat!
For more information about frozen potato products click here
Why buy frozen fruit and vegetables?
Freezing offers you year round availability of fruit and vegetables that have been picked and frozen at their peak of quality. ‘Fresh’ vegetables are often a few days old and can lose many of their nutrients whereas frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of picking. Click here to see how fresh vegetables lose vitamins compared to frozen. It is a natural process that does not involve the use of any preservatives and it makes the 'exotic' available everyday!
Why buy frozen desserts?
The quality of frozen desserts has improved so much over the years it exceeded all expectations - it is true to say that in many cases frozen is better than fresh! For example, frozen profiteroles are now one of the best selling desserts today! Frozen pancakes are so good they are indistinguishable from fresh.
• Some best-loved desserts are now more usually associated with frozen such as yummy tasting profiteroles, gateaux and cheesecakes.
• Did you know that frozen whipped cream is just as tasty as fresh and allows intricate decorations on all desserts?
• Frozen desserts are normally produced with short shelf life ingredients so they are extremely fresh when frozen, which gives maximum quality when defrosted.
• Frozen desserts offer year round availability of seasonal ingredients such as Scottish raspberries, exotic fruits and English strawberries.
• Most frozen desserts that require baking can be cooked directly from frozen!
For more reasons to chose frozen desserts click here
Why buy frozen bakery and bread?
There really is nothing more tempting than the aroma of freshly baked baguettes or croissants. By baking small amounts you can ensure you and your family can enjoy the ‘just baked’ freshness you want while reducing costly waste.
• Frozen bread and pastries require less work and are best baked straight from the freezer, freeing up your time in the kitchen.
• Frozen bread often contains fewer additives than fresh alternatives as the freezing process acts a natural preservative.
• Be sure to check out frozen organic bakery products, which are increasing in popularity.
Why buy frozen appetisers and buffet items?
Frozen appetisers and buffet items are some of the most convenient areas of frozen food. From the simple to the complicated, these types of frozen foods offer you and your dinner guests an enormous variety. When hosting a dinner party, your dinner guests are sure to be wowed when you use frozen appetisers and buffet items because:
• Frozen products allow you to produce hot food at the very last moment.
• It offers replenishment opportunities so no panicking about the food running short!
• Frozen products allow you to offer consistently good food to your guests.
• Frozen products have clear and concise cooking instructions which can reduce the pre-party stress.
• Many frozen buffet items can be thawed and served for ultimate convenience.
• Frozen canapés are a cost effective solution to handmade alternatives.
Why buy frozen prepared meals and entrées?
Frozen Ready Meals and premium Entrées products are some of the most innovative and exciting areas in frozen food. The opportunities are endless and you can benefit from using frozen meals in many ways.
• Frozen meals and entrées are 'labour saving' alternatives as they are convenient and easy to serve.
Frozen meals and entrees can allow you, as a parent, to offer a wider meal choice for your family.
• Frozen meals and entrees offer perfect portion control to help with managing your weight and your household waste, thereby protecting your finances.
• Clear nutritional messages are declared on packaging so you know what you're giving your family.
• Frozen meals can make a selection of healthy eating or specific allergy requirements available to you much more convenient. Now you can accommodate even the fussiest of eaters!
Functions and special occasions
Christmas, Mothers' Day, Valentine's Day, Birthdays, Easter… these are times when family meals are important. Using frozen products eases the workload, offers convenience and time savings, whilst allowing flexibility throughout the day.
Be kind to your freezer
In the UK today having a freezer is pretty much essential. However, not many of us think too much about its regular maintenance, which enables a freezers' longevity. In fact, regular checks and up keeping will help you save you money on repairs, and allow your foods to be as fresh and tasty as the day you purchased them.
Make sure you regularly defrost your freezer - this will help when it comes to preserving your food and your freezer maintain the energy level it should be using - which is about -18 degrees Celsius.