How to Thaw, Cook & Refreeze Vegetables

by Carol Butler
Adding lemon juice and seasonings can add unexpected zest to frozen vegetables.

Adding lemon juice and seasonings can add unexpected zest to frozen vegetables.

Frozen vegetables in bags or cartons provide easy and healthful dinner solutions for busy nights. Some frozen vegetables require thawing before use, while others are best poured straight from the bag. If vegetables are thawed unintentionally, such as after a power outage or due to freezer failure, you'll need to carefully check the bags of frozen vegetables so you know what to do with them.

Safely Thawing Vegetables

Most frozen vegetables can be used straight from the freezer without thawing. Frozen corn on the cob is one exception, because the frozen core might not thaw all the way through, even after cooking. To thaw corn on the cob, take the cobs out of the freezer and place them in cold water for 10 minutes. Frozen spinach also needs thawing unless it’s being used in a soup or stew. To thaw frozen spinach, run the package under cold water until it is defrosted, or place the frozen package in a bowl and allow it to thaw overnight in your refrigerator. Frozen spinach is processed with water, so to avoid a runny dish, squeeze out the excess water before cooking.

Inspecting Thawed Vegetables

Bags of frozen vegetables can be dangerous if they accidentally thaw in a faulty freezer. Inspect your vegetables by looking for ice crystals and measuring the temperature. Bags of frozen vegetables that still have ice crystals may be refrozen, though texture, flavor and appearance may be compromised. If the vegetables are completely thawed and the bag is warm or at room temperature, throw them away. If the vegetables are thawed but still cold, and there is no unpleasant odor, move them to a refrigerator at a temperature between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and use them within two days.

Cooking Frozen Vegetables

Do not refreeze vegetables that have accidentally thawed unless you cook them first. Bacteria can multiply quickly in bags of frozen vegetables, but cooking destroys the bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Because frozen vegetables are cooked slightly when processed for freezer storage, short cooking times are best to preserve their texture. Steam them rather than boil them, and add frozen vegetables straight from the bag at the end of cooking sauces and stir-fries. Cool down hot soup with frozen vegetables, and toss them in hot, drained pasta to cool down your noodles for a chilled pasta salad on hot summer nights.

Refreezing Frozen Vegetables

When deciding whether or not to refreeze frozen vegetables, think of safety first. If you have determined the vegetables are safe to eat, use them right away. Because their flavor and texture may have been affected, cook them in a soup or stew where the texture won't be so noticeable. After cooking, package any leftovers by placing them in shallow containers to allow for fast cooling, and freeze within two hours.

About the Author

For more than 10 years, Carol Butler has run a small, off-grid furniture business with her husband and is a regular contributor to the Edible community of magazines. As staff writer for RichLife Advisors, she covers financial planning and other industry-related topics. She holds a B.F.A. in theater arts.

Photo Credits

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