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What is the best way to store stock in the freezer?

I can think of ice cubes and plastic bags, but am looking for other ideas.

Also, what would be the optimal portion size?

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We do ice cube trays (then transfer to freezer bags) or sometimes we'll use the pressure canner. –  Dinah Jul 15 '10 at 1:57

6 Answers 6

Plastic quart and pint containers....the kind frequently used for Chinese take-out in the US. Inexpensive. Reusable. Microwave safe. Dishwasher Safe. Can write on with Sharpie...Sharpie wipes off for new label.

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I usually put 500 ml portions in a quart zip-lock bag and put the bags in a bread pan to help retain their shape while I freeze them.

But I recently bought some "tovolo king" silicone ice cube trays for freezing portions of baby food (about 100 mL per cube) and found that they're also good for freezing small portions of stock or broth. Since they're silicone, it's easy to peel the mold off of the cube after freezing. (I freeze them and then bag the cubes.)

The 500 mL bags are nice when I need a few cups of broth and the 100 mL cubes are nice when I need smaller portions.

They also make a smaller tray of 1 oz cubes, which are useful when you need a small amount of stock to finish a sauce. (I also use them for leftover coconut milk.)

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When I want to freeze portions of almost anything liquid (including stocks and sauces), I use a covered ice cube tray like OXO Good Grips. Just spoon it into the tray and throw it in the freezer. Easy! Keeps very well, and makes it very easy to portion out later.

The OXO product is my favourite, but it's not too hard to find generic substitutes at any superstore. Try to find one with a soft bottom so you don't struggle for 5 minutes trying to get the cubes out and then scraping the sides for all the bits you left behind.

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The ice cube tray is a great way to store stock. You just break out what you need. –  Kev Jul 10 '10 at 16:29
    
FYI: Your link has gone 404. I think the new link is either oxo.com/p-1041-ice-cube-tray.aspx or oxo.com/p-1203-no-spill-ice-cube-tray.aspx; they have two similar products, not sure which you're referring to. –  derobert Sep 23 '13 at 22:02
    
@derobert: Yep, it was the regular ice cube tray. Didn't know they had a "no spill" tray. Not sure why they need one, my regular tray has never spilled. –  Aaronut Sep 23 '13 at 23:48

I use quart ziplock bags. I fill them fully, and freeze them on their side on a flat surface. I also often use 1 pint plastic takeout containers. I have found that those two sizes nearly always are the right amounts for me.

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I don't like ice cube trays as the only freezing method, simply because of portioning -- I typically make large batches of stock, and I only have so many ice cube trays. So I make a few different sizes, which are mostly just based on things I have, and so I have a variety of sizes when I need it:

  • Gallon zip-top bags : fill about half way, close all but a corner, remove all of the air you can, seal, lay on sheet pans so they don't freeze in strange shapes.
  • Small bread pans (I think they were sold as 'mini loaf' pans, they're about 1/4 to 1/3 the volume of a 'standard' loaf pan, maybe 2-3 cups each Freeze, release, store in zip-top bags with as much air removed as possible.
  • Ice cube trays (for when you only need a Tb for a sauce, or when you just need to cool down a bowl of soup quickly without diluting it).

I've also been known to use muffin tins for freezing things that I'll be using about 3/4c. at a time. (eg, pesto)

Oh -- and of course, for the plastic bags, you'll want to cool the stock down first. I don't tend to refrigerate it first, as I use enough bones that it'll go gelatinous on me if I do. I cool it down to near room temperature through use of a cold water bath (I put my stock pot in the sink, then fill the sink with cold water and ice, and stir every few minutes)

I've never checked the freezing time of stock from hot / cold (Mpemba effect), but I'd be reluctant to put large volumes of hot items in my freezer .. so maybe ice cube trays, but the rest I cool before freezing.

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Yes, I use those zip-tops as well: a great way to store it. Also very easy to just "break" a small portion from it. –  Bart Kiers Jul 17 '10 at 12:21
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You can get all the air out of the bag by submerging it in a sink full of water. Leave the unclosed corner out, and zip it up as you pull it under the water. The pressure from the water will expel all the air. I use the technique for sous vide rather than a vacuum machine. –  yossarian Jan 17 '11 at 17:36

I store my stock in 250ml one-use rectangular dozes with a cap.

  • I find the 250ml ideal portion for my usual needs.
  • One-use dozes are very cheap and I don't have to care about cleaning them. They are also much thinner and that saves a lot of space in the freezer.
  • Rectangular shape also saves space.
  • The stock doesn't really need to be covered with a cap. As soon as it freezes, it doesn't matter. But having a cap allows me to pile them up. Again, this saves space in the freezer.

My friend - a professional chef - has another method. But it requires some equipment:

He puts the stock into a plastic bag. Then he uses a machine that sucks all the air from it and seals it. He freezes each flat bag individualy. Once they are frozen, he stacks them. This allows optimum use of freezer space.

When he needs to use the stock, he just cuts the bag open and break the frozen stock into pieces. It's easy, because the slices of frozen stock are very thin.

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