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Can You Put Plastic Tupperware In The Freezer?

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Freezing food is a great way to make it last longer. Putting leftovers or prepared meals into plastic Tupperware containers and popping them in the freezer can save you time and reduce food waste.

But can all plastic food storage containers safely go from the fridge to the freezer? Here’s what you need to know about freezing plastic Tupperware:

Which Types of Plastic Tupperware are freezer-safe?

Not all plastics are created equal when it comes to low temperatures. Some become brittle and crack in freezing temperatures. Here are the plastic numbers that can typically handle the cold:

  • #2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene): This plastic is freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe. HDPE is a stiff, opaque plastic used to make milk jugs, detergent bottles, Tupperware containers, and other household items. It maintains its structure in sub-zero temperatures.
  • #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene): LDPE is a flexible plastic that can handle freezer temperatures. It’s used to make plastic wraps and bags, squeeze bottles, and flexible container lids.
  • #5 PP (polypropylene): Clear, hard PP plastic is common for yogurt cups, deli containers, margarine tubs, and storage containers. Polypropylene holds up well in the freezer.

As a general rule, thick, rigid plastic containers are better choices than flexible or thin plastics. Always check the package or bottom of containers for the recycling symbol and number to identify the plastic type. Avoid #1 PETE and #6 PS plastics, as these tend to get brittle with freezing.

Tips for Freezing Food in Plastic Containers

Freezing food in Tupperware works best when you follow a few guidelines:

  • Leave headspace. Liquids expand as they freeze, so don’t fill containers to the brim. Leave at least 1/2 inch of headspace for expansion.
  • Seal tightly. Secure lids tightly so no air remains inside. Air causes freezer burn.
  • Use smaller containers. Small portions freeze faster, reducing ice crystal formation. Freeze broths or sauces in ice cube trays.
  • Label contents and date: identify what’s inside and when you froze it with a marker.
  • Don’t overfill the freezer. Air needs to circulate freely in the freezer, so don’t pack it too tightly.
  • Avoid temperature fluctuations. Try not to open the freezer often. Stable, cold temperatures preserve food the best.

Proper Thawing of Frozen Foods

Improperly thawing frozen foods leads to bacterial growth. Here are some safe ways to thaw plastic Tupperware containers of frozen food:

  • Refrigerator thawing: For slow, safe thawing, place frozen containers in the refrigerator. Small packages may thaw within a day, while large foods may take 2–3 days.
  • Cold water method: Place the unopened package in a bowl of cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. A medium package may thaw in 1–2 hours.
  • Microwave thawing: use the defrost setting in short bursts, checking often. Rotate and break up the food as needed.
  • Cook without thawing: foods like frozen vegetables, ground meat, and frozen casseroles can be cooked directly from the freezer. Just increase cooking times.

Always cook thawed foods immediately rather than refreezing them. Pay close attention to the recommended freezer times for different foods. Discard anything that has exceeded the recommended freezer storage guidelines.

Are There Any Risks to Freezing Plastic Containers?

Freezing plastic food storage containers is generally safe, but there are a few potential risks to be aware of:

  • Brittleness: Some plastics become stiff and crack easily when frozen. Glass is best for very low freezer temperatures.
  • Food odors: Plastic can absorb oil and odors from strongly flavored foods like fish and cheese. Use glass or silicone for those.
  • Chemical leaching: There is some concern that compounds in plastics may leach into fatty or acidic foods during prolonged freezing.
  • Broken lids: Cheap, thin lids can crack. Look for BPA-free plastic lids with some flexibility.
  • Spills: Liquid expands as it freezes and could potentially push lids open. Leave headspace and seal tightly.

With high-quality, freezer-safe containers, the risks are minimal. But glass or silicone provide good alternatives for extended freezer storage.

Freezer-Friendly Foods for Plastic Containers

Many foods freeze wonderfully in plastic Tupperware, maintaining both quality and safety. Some good choices include:

  • Soups, stews, and chili
  • Cooked grains like rice and pasta
  • Casseroles and baked pasta dishes
  • Cooked beans and lentils
  • Chicken, beef, and pork
  • Fresh veggies like peas, corn, and peppers
  • Baked goods like cookie dough, muffins, and bread
  • Smoothies and purees
  • Marinara sauce, pizza sauce
  • Salsa, pesto, and hummus

The key is leaving headspace and sealing tightly. Containers make it easy to pull pre-made foods from the freezer to reheat for quick meals or pack in lunches. Label contents clearly and follow recommended freezer times.

Freezer Storage Times for Frozen Foods

Here are general guidelines for maximum freezer storage times, according to the FDA:

  • Fresh meat like beef, pork, or lamb: 4 months
  • Poultry: 6 months
  • Soups and stews: 2-3 months
  • Casseroles, cooked pasta, 2-3 months
  • Frozen vegetables: 8 months
  • Baked goods like cookies and muffins: 3 months
  • Pizza, pie, 1-2 months

For best quality, use frozen items within these time frames. If storing longer, freeze foods you plan to cook further, like casseroles and meat, rather than those you’ll thaw and serve.

FAQs About Freezing Plastic Storage Containers

Can you freeze Ziploc bags?

Yes, Ziploc freezer bags are designed to be cold-temperature resistant. Opt for thicker freezer bags rather than lightweight sandwich bags. Remove excess air and seal tightly.

Should Tupperware lids be sealed when freezing?

Yes, always seal lids tightly to prevent air exposure and freezer burn. Press gently to remove excess air before sealing. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace for expansion.

Do mason jars crack in the freezer?

Freezing mason jars risks cracking since glass expands. Leave headspace, avoid extreme temperature changes, and thaw slowly in the fridge. Use plastic containers for longer freezing times.

Can I reuse plastic freezer containers?

Yes, you can reuse plastic freezer containers if they remain intact and undamaged. Wash thoroughly between uses. Avoid freezing anything with a potent aroma that might linger.

How long does plastic last in the freezer?

High-quality plastic can usually last many years in the freezer before becoming brittle. Avoid temperature fluctuations and let the plastic come to room temperature before use. Check for cracking.

The Bottom Line

Freezing leftovers and prepared foods in plastic Tupperware offers convenience, portion control, and less waste.

Look for thick, rigid plastics like HDPE and PP that resist brittleness at low temperatures. Allow headspace for expansion, and always thaw safely. With some simple precautions, Tupperware containers are generally quite freezer-friendly.

 

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