Q: What kinds of food can be frozen?
A: Walk through the frozen foods isle in the grocery store and you'll know what freezes well. This is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes you'll see things in the frozen isle that actually don't freeze well. The manufacturer's usually put something in them to make them more stable. Things that DON'T freeze well are potatoes (twice baked ones are an exception), some egg casseroles (again, depends on the recipe), and sour cream tends to separate so you have to be careful which recipes you use. My general rule is: try it. If it doesn't freeze well, then just make a note of it on the recipe.
Q: Which foods should I cook before freezing versus cooking after freezing?
A: I tend to cook almost everything before I freeze it. I'm still in new momma mode (AKA can't remember anything), so I may be forgetting - but I can't think of a time where I've left meat raw. I always cook it. However, if you are assembling ingredients, don't cook it. For example, if I'm making an all meat dish such as meat balls, hamburgers, chicken parmesan, etc. I cook it before I freeze it. If I'm making a dish that has multiple ingredients, like chicken tetrazzini, I use cooked chicken, cooked pasta, and all other ingredients and just put them together in a freezer bag. When I'm ready to cook it, I thaw it and put it in a glass dish and bake. That is the 1st time it's been baked. Anything with batter, go ahead and cook it before freezing. Anything with eggs, cook beforehand.
Q: Should I thaw the food before cooking it?A: You don't have to, but shoot to thaw. It’s cheaper because you’re not keeping your oven on for longer than necessary (this is where meal planning is especially helpful - otherwise you won’t remember or know to pull something out to thaw). Sometimes I forget to take out a meal beforehand. I still cook it from frozen and it most of the time turns out fine. Occasionally I cook things from frozen that get dried out because they cooked too long. So, shoot to thaw items before cooking, but don't stress out if you forgot.
Q: What's the best way to thaw food?
A: For legal reasons, I should probably tell you to always thaw food (especially meat) in the refrigerator over night. But, I almost never do that. I've always thawed foods on my counter and never had a problem. If you take it out in the morning, it will be room temperature by the time you cook it (which is dangerous), so be sure to keep an eye on it and when it's thawed, but it in the fridge until you put it in the oven.