Your freezer is probably stocked with frozen pizzas and pints of ice cream, but the chilliest part of your fridge could be doing more. If stocked right, the freezer could be utilized in ways that could save money, prolong the life of products, and make you look like a well-prepared host who is always ready for impromptu guests. Here are 10 items you should always keep stashed.
1. CHICKEN STOCK
We’re not talking about the stuff at the store that comes in a can or a box. The next time you make a rotisserie chicken (or buy one ready-made), make a quick stock out of the leftover bits. Throw it in your freezer and you’ll have a rich, delicious liquid on hand that will make your soups, pastas, and sauces exponentially more flavorful.
You may have heard that keeping batteries in your freezer will extend their shelf life, and that's true, but only for specific types. Putting your run-of-the-mill alkaline batteries on ice isn't going to make much of a difference, but the Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries that are often used in electronics—that's a different story. Those self-discharge a few percent every day, but storing them at low temps will help slow that down. (You'll want to bring them to room temperature before putting them to use, however.)
A bag of frozen peas serves a dual purpose. You can eat them, of course. But frozen peas can also soothe an injury in a way that other ice packs can’t. The individual peas in the bag can be molded around an achy body part more easily than other forms of relief (like, say, the stereotypical slab of meat).
The next time you make a batch of cookie dough, resist the urge to eat it all. Scoop the mixture into single cookies as if you were going to bake them. Then, freeze the dough in an airtight container or plastic bag. Later, you can pull out a cookie or two and bake whenever you’ve got a craving for something sweet.
Another option: Go ahead and bake the cookie dough but instead of digging in afterward, seal the sweets in an airtight container and throw them in the freezer. When you have guests, pull the cookies out to thaw and wow them with no-fuss, made-from-scratch treats.
Before you burn a new candle, toss it in the freezer for a day. Keeping it cool will chill the wax and extend the candle's burning time. This little trick is especially helpful for tapers, which are notoriously fast burners. You can also freeze your jar candles when they're spent. This helps loosen up the remaining wax, making it easier to pop out what's left of the candle so that you can reuse the jar.
Want fresh herbs all year-round without paying a premium price? Buy them at a farmer’s market when they’re in season, then freeze. Serious Eats tested several methods and determined that covering chopped herbs in canola or olive oil prior to freezing is the best way to retain flavor and texture.
7. CRUMBLE TOPPING
Crumble topping—usually a mixture of butter, sugar, and flour—is delicious and versatile. Unfortunately, making it can be time-consuming. Instead of whipping up a fresh batch every time a recipe calls for it, make a large amount and freeze it. When you need crumble as a topping for coffee cake, pie, cobbler, or ice cream, you'll save both time and effort by reaching into the freezer and pulling out a cup of the sweet stuff.
Have leftover wine? Pour it into ice cube trays to make individual cubes. You can use them later as a creative way to chill a glass of red or white from a fresh bottle or in soups, stews, coq au vin, or any other recipes that call for a splash of vino.
9. PLASTIC WRAP
If you've ever experienced cling wrap that's a bit too clingy, you know how frustrating it can be. But if you store your rolls of wrap in the freezer, the material will be less likely to stick to itself. Don't worry; it'll still have enough oomph to cover bowls and plates.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but keep a fresh batch of ice on hand. You never know when guests might stop by, and if you haven't refreshed your stock in a few days, you could be too low to serve them. Worse, you could have ice that has picked up flavors from other items in your freezer. Either way, it's best to refresh your ice box every few days.