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Whilst I am not that good, I love to cook and I absolutely love onions!

When I cook, the longest part always seems to be peeling and cutting onions.. and hate the crying! (mainly because I buy the small ones and use about 7 or 8!)... Although, from reading the knife skills question, I think I just need a sharper knife and more practice!

Anyway, having previously only bought fresh vegetables, I have recently "discovered" frozen, and I have to say, I think the majority are nicer than fresh!

I am hesitant to try others without recommendations first, but, I have seen large packs of frozen, chopped onions and I was just wondering if these are as good as fresh?

So far I have had sweetcorn, brussel sprouts and peas which were all good, but I have also had mixed stir fry vegetables which were horrible! are there any general rule as to what vegetables are good frozen?

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Broccoli and Cauliflower seem to be pretty good frozen fresh. Mixed fry vegetables are generally pretty 'soft' but can taste ok. I've no experience with frozen onions but after a while you get used to cutting them. Dip a sharp knife into some water for the fasted cutting. –  Barfieldmv Jan 28 '11 at 12:37
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Fresh onions store pretty well in dry climates, longer refrigerated anywhere; they aren't generally only seasonally-available, are relatively inexpensive in small quantities (not just bulk), and don't fluctuate much in price (where I live)... so I don't see an advantage to using freezer space for onions -- even though the taste is passable, which it is. I freeze items that fit some of the above criteria. Maybe try some techniques for lessening the eyeball burn? –  zanlok Jan 28 '11 at 19:09
    
@zanlok, where I live it's quite frequent for onions to either be mouldy already when purchased or to develop mould within a week. On short timescales it's not a big deal - just discard the outer layer or two - but for storage frozen onions have an advantage here. –  Peter Taylor Jan 29 '11 at 21:32
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ok... had them... and mixed feelings.... when fried up, they really do not taste as good - texture and taste... however as they were already friend, I decided to use them anyway... threw in the minced beef and spices, and honestly, I wouldn't of known the difference, so, I would NOT use them for anything where onions are important e.g. as a side with things, but as an ingredient, I think they are a good lazy substitute. –  wilhil Jan 29 '11 at 21:37
    
I've personally never tried onions from frozen (I'd be afraid they've give out too much liquid as they defrost), but if you still have any left, you might try them in an application where you're slowly cooking them and not trying to brown them, and see if they do any better in that application. –  Joe Jan 30 '11 at 1:47
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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

My general rules are twofold --

  • Is the item something that can be frozen whole? (yes for corn kernels, peas, lima beans, etc.)
  • Is it something that I'm going to reheat, but not cook over high heat?

So, part of it's the items themselves, but the other part is how I'm preparing them ... and stir-fry just isn't something that I think lends itself to frozen vegetables in my opinion, as you want to cook them quickly, and they're not going to cook quickly from frozen. Sweating, on the other hand, you might be okay with, I've never tried using frozen onions.

I typically use frozen vegetables for things like pot pies, soups, and such, where the vegetables don't need to be at their absolute prime. Frozen peas hold up amazingly well; I'll even sprinkle them into paella or other dishes to add texture and color.

My suggestion for your onion problem would be to get larger onions. You'll spend less crying over 1-2 large onions than 7 or 8 small ones. At the very least, peel 'em all, then start cutting, so you're not exposed to the fumes slowly over a longer time.

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+1 thanks, going to roll a dice for answer between you and Eric! ... My main gripe would be to use them and then ruin an entire load of meat... I will buy a bag tonight and try to fry a bit and see how they taste as it is only £1, if they are rubbish, I will buy larger onions from now on, if they are good - I will use frozen from now on. –  wilhil Jan 28 '11 at 15:48
    
Thanks, and FYI, made a comment above after trying... mixed feelings! –  wilhil Jan 29 '11 at 21:38
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I find the biggest issues with frozen vegetables from a strictly aesthetics standpoint is texture and taste. Frozen veggies almost always lose the crunch that fresh has, especially if cooked properly and not cooked to a limp,mushy mess. The firmer vegetables tend to hold up to freezing better as well.

Frozen onions are definitely limp and weaker than fresh ones, but you make a good point of time saving. I personally would take the extra time, but depending on how you are using them, like in home fries or some soups and sauces, they are a reasonable substitute

If you find you really like the fresh better, you can reduce the number of cutting/crying cycles but chopping some extra and freezing them yourself. You will get better flavor from your own recently frozen onions and have some prep done for next time you need them.

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+1 thanks, going to roll a dice for answer between you and Joe! ... My main gripe would be to use them and then ruin an entire load of meat... I will buy a bag tonight and try to fry a bit and see how they taste as it is only £1, if they are rubbish, I will buy larger onions from now on, if they are good - I will use frozen from now on. –  wilhil Jan 28 '11 at 15:47
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My only problem with frozen chopped onions tends to be that they're not chopped very fine. Other than that, in any cooked application, most people will not be able to tell the difference between the frozen onions and the freshly-chopped onions. Naturally, the same isn't true if you're not cooking the onions, but how many uses do you know for raw chopped onions? (Sliced, yes, but chopped?)

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+1 many thanks! I am going to try them tonight! –  wilhil Jan 28 '11 at 15:49
    
Raw chopped onions: burgers/hot dogs/sausage/etc, salads, salsa, chili (added right before serving)... –  derobert Jan 31 '11 at 22:52
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The issue I have with frozen onions in particular (and I love other frozen vegetables) is that when you are looking to really caramelize your onions (not just cook them until they're no longer hard), you can't add liquid in the initial stages because the onions will steam rather than fry.

Water can only heat up to boiling point before it starts changing into steam. (212 F or 100 C at sea level.) Any additional heat energy is only going to make the transition from one state to the other faster -- it won't get any hotter.

Oil, on the other hand, can heat up to its smoke point -- which can be significantly higher temperatures. Thus, it can allow chemical reactions that only occur at higher temperatures. (Maillard reactions? Can someone with access to McGee confirm that for me?)

That's why boiled onions look and taste different from caramelized onions. The latter are much sweeter and have different flavors.

Frozen onions generally have enough ice inside or on them that they never truly caramelize. If you just want to get them soft enough to eat, they're fine. So it really depends on what you're doing with the onions. In fact, you might want to have some of each. If you're just using the onions in stew, for example, frozen would be fine. But if you're making a stir fry or other high heat dry dish, you'd want fresh.

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Don't have McGee in front of me, but Wikipedia confirms: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction#Factors –  derobert Jan 31 '11 at 22:53
    
Thanks, derobert! That's what I wanted. –  Martha F. Feb 9 '11 at 2:07
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Personally, I'd advise against freezing onions. They last for weeks in the cold room or in the fridge, so I see no point in freezing them. Frozen peas, green beans, carrots and corn are acceptable, although never as good as fresh. The quality also depends on the freezing technique; industry uses fast-freezing techniques which lose less vitamins and texture.

It seems that freezing has to do with fiber; there is some mention of that in this Robert Lustig's talk on sugar. I highly recommend watching the whole video, but the rest of talk is not relevant to the question, so here's the link to a relevant minute or so of the talk (about 40:55 to 42:00).

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i just ate some frozen onions and green pepper in tuna salad sandwiches. they were from my garden. washed chopped and frozen 8/2012 it is Now 4/2013 and they were fine. just tossed them in the tuna salad frozen and mixed up. chilled the tuna and tasted great. even crisp. and i froze them 8 months ago before winter. you'll be fine. remember you are always chancing botulism when not cooking ANY vegetable.

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