8 Tips for Big Batch Cooking
Big batch cooking—and then freezing for later—is a trend that we really get behind. Of course, we love being in the kitchen on a weekend, filling the house with delicious aromas (and the freezer with almost-effortless dinners and lunches). And, a full freezer means there’s something on hand to share with a friend or family who might be under the weather, welcoming a new baby or dropping by unexpectedly.
Soup is a favorite dish to tackle during a big batch cooking spree: it’s easy to make, there’s lots of variety and the recipes are usually easy to double or triple. Here are 8 ways to ensure your big batches of soup are as satisfying from freezer to table as they are right from the stockpot.
1. Hearty greens, like kale, as well as lentils and beans retain much of their texture and shape during freezing, thawing and reheating, making them good choices for big batch soups. Grains such as barley and rice also freeze fine but tend to absorb liquid, so add a splash of additional Swanson® broth to the soup as it reheats.
2. If you’re making a chowder, know that the broth may separate after thawing but it can usually be blended back together by whisking in a splash of heavy cream when reheating. Once the cream is added avoid boiling the soup, both during the initial cooking and reheating stages.
3. Pasta and delicate vegetables like spinach can turn mushy after freezing. We suggest you leave them out of the recipe but freeze the soup, then stir a handful of fresh spinach leaves or cooked pasta into the reheated soup before serving. Seafood, like crab or shrimp, tends to turn tough after freezing and reheating—add it to reheated soup before serving too. Leave out any fresh herbs, such as basil or cilantro, until reheating as well.
1. For food safety cool the soups down as quickly as possible before freezing. One way to do this is to fill a sink with just enough water and ice cubes to create a chilly water bath for the stockpot. When the soup is done, set the stockpot directly into the sink—Stir the soup every 5 minutes to cool it quickly. Another option is to portion the soup into freezer containers and let them cool—small amounts of soup cool more quickly than the big pot. Note that the soup doesn’t need to be completely cooled down before freezing.
2. When filling the containers for storage, leave about ½ inch of headspace to allow for expansion during freezing. Clearly label and date the containers, and plan to use within 2 or 3 months.
3. Resealable freezer bags make great disposable freezer containers. We portion cooled soup into the bags (best to label them before putting the soup in them), seal tightly, then “flash freeze” by laying the bags in a single layer on a baking sheet and freezing until firm. Stack the bags on top of each other on racks in the freezer.
1. Again for safety, it’s best to thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator overnight. It may still be icy when you pack your lunch in the morning, but when lunchtime rolls around, it’ll be microwave-ready.
2. Perk up the flavors of freezer soup by adding a handful of fresh chopped herbs, a drizzle of lemon juice, grated Parmesan, a dollop of pesto, guacamole or plain yogurt seasoned with Sriracha sauce or salsa.
So, next time you’re making a pot of homemade soup, consider doubling or tripling the batch, and enjoy that homemade goodness any time you get the craving!