Freezing soup

Who doesn’t enjoy freezing cold soup in the wintertime? …after it’s reheated, of course! Another option for soup lovers who don’t want to pull out the pressure canner this season is to freeze soups. Here you’ll find how-to tips and recommendations for freezing soups successfully.

24 hours before putting soup into your freezer, drop the freezer temperature to -10°F. Once soup has frozen, hold at 0°F. If you already have a freezer that’s set to the 0°F and there’s space open in it, then freezing is more likely to be an economical choice for food preservation. If you also have airtight containers to use instead of buying new ones, then the cost is even less.

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Which kinds of containers work best? Rigid containers like plastic cartons or glass jars designed for canning and freezing. Keep in mind thought that many common household containers are not suitable because you’re looking for moisture- and vapor-resistant materials that produce an airtight seal (i.e. not your average yogurt or milk container). Hint: wide-mouth jars make it easier to remove the contents before complete thawing. One other option is to pour the soup into ice cube trays!

An advantage of freezing soup is that you can portion individual servings (or servings for 2, 3, 4…), making it easy to reheat just one portion at a time in order to produce your desired quantity. No container should be so big that the soup will take a long time to become frozen; that leads to poor quality. Another benefit of freezing is that certain ingredients intensify in flavor after freezing, such as pepper, cloves, garlic, green pepper, celery seasonings and some herbs…but beware; they could also become bitter overtime. Other cautions: onion and paprika change flavor, curry develops and off-flavor and salt loses flavor. Simple solution: season lightly before freezing then add more seasonings after reheating.

Just like some fruits and vegetables freeze better than others, some soup recipes will maintain a higher quality than others. It’s generally suggested that you leave out potatoes from soups that you plan to freeze. Another tip for best quality is to concentrate the product by using less liquid. You can always add more liquid (broth, tomato juice, cream, water) when you reheat it.

After preparing your delicious soup, it’s important to cool it quickly, so that large ice crystals don’t form- that would lead to a mushy consistency. To do this, put the pot of soup in a pan or sink of ice water. When cool, package and freeze immediately, placing containers against the surfaces of the freezer for the fastest freeze. For highest quality, enjoy frozen soup within 4-6 months.

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Do not put hot glass in the freezer (or in ice water); it may break. It’s also important to leave headspace so that the soup doesn’t break the container as liquids expand in the freezing process. The exact amount of headspace needed depends on the contents of your soup, but leave at least ½-inch for mostly solid soups and 1½-inches for mostly liquid soups.

Unlike other frozen foods, it is recommended that you do not thaw your soup, but rather reheat it immediately after removal from the freezer. Heat it to a rolling boil, or at least 165°F. If it’s a cream soup, then heat over boiling water, double-boiler style. Soups with dairy may curdle and separate, so stir while reheating to keep smooth. Here’s another tip: add a waxy rice or corn flour as a thickener.

Information in the entry comes from ‘Freezing Prepared Foods’ and So Easy to Preserve.

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4 thoughts on “Freezing soup

  1. Tom

    Missed this last winter. Glad I found it today! I like to freeze soups by putting them in a ziploc bag and laying them down flat on a baking sheet. I let it get solid and then it makes it easily stored.

    1. nchfp Post author

      …yes, and you probably already do this and just didn’t describe it, but for the sake of clarity — do make sure the soup is cool before bagging!

  2. danrshaw

    I always use our vacuum sealer and gallon sized vacuum bags to freeze soup and stews. I’ve tried using the plastic quart size freezer containers and never had much luck with them. It seems that as the contents freezes and expand the plastic will warp just enough to lose the seal on the lead so ice crystals form.

    1. nchfp Post author

      Yes, if you have the necessary equipment, then vacuum sealing can be used for freezing soups. While some people may experience great success with this method, an issue with vacuum sealers is that if you have too much liquid in a bag then it may be pulled into your machine and break it. Some manufacturers tell you not to use liquid foods and even to tray freeze blanched veggies before vacuum sealing so you don’t pull water back into the machine. So, be aware of those risks if you choose to use a vacuum sealer. Read your manufacturer’s recommendations before vacuum sealing soup.
      And yes indeed, cracking due to expansion is a common problem when using plastic containers, though it can be prevented if enough headspace is allowed. The tricky part is figuring out exactly how much space that is because it depends on the amount of water in your soup, and unfortunately, trial and error might result in the loss of product. Keep in mind that the more liquid present, the more your soup will expand and therefore the more headspace needs to be left in the container. With most soups in most containers, 1 1/2 inches will be enough.

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