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My fridge has a "partial freezing" compartment where the temperature is kept at around −3°C (27°F). It is promoted as a feature for storing meat and fish, but... I don't eat any animal products. Any ideas on vegan-friendly uses for such a compartment? Are there any fruits or veggies which will benefit from this storage temperature? Nuts? Seeds? Tofu? Anything else?

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Freezing tofu breaks down some of the cell structure and gives a texture many people prefer after cooking. As long as its really below 0C your compartment will work. I'd allow 12 hours to freeze a standard 1lb / 454g block, or more if you don't first remove it from the packaging and drain it. Of course it will be faster if you first cut the block into smaller pieces.

Many vegetables do not freeze well, for the same reason that the expansion of water into ice on freezing destroys the cell structure. For instance try freezing a carrot: you'll find it turns into mush. Exceptions include peas and broccoli and (arguably) spinach, where the frozen product is far denser than the fresh and good for use as an ingredient, e.g. in spinach pies.

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    Is there any reason to prefer to freeze tofu at -3c instead of something like -18c that you'd expect in the main freezer compartment?
    – bdsl
    Nov 12, 2022 at 21:15
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    That's an interesting question. Generally freezing food more quickly creates smaller ice crystals, and does less cell damage. Since here the aim is to create cell damage, it might even be that the -3C compartment is an improvement on a main freezer compartment. Maybe someone with both freezing devices could do an experiment. Nov 13, 2022 at 12:00
  • "try freezing a carrot: you'll find it turns into mush." So I buy packets of already frozen vegetable - a mixture of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots - the carrots are not mushy... Nov 13, 2022 at 14:09
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    @DavidPostill: commercially frozen stuff is done in blast freezers which get much colder than home freezers and minimize ice crystal size and resulting damage. Some newer ones even use ultrasonic vibrations to break up crystals as they form. Home freezers do much more damage to cell walls, which you can minimize for really small things (blueberries, peas) by chilling then spreading them out on a sheet pan that’s already been frozen, but it’s really two different things, like comparing a coal fired pizza oven to a toaster oven
    – Joe
    Nov 13, 2022 at 14:41
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    I'd add to Joe's comment that, while commercially frozen carrots aren't 'mush', they are noticeably mushier than fresh carrots. Try putting a frozen carrot (maybe from one of the cheaper brands) on a low heat for a few minutes and then pressing it hard with a fork: you'll find water oozes out everywhere. Nov 13, 2022 at 14:57
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TL;DR To find uses for the compartment, do the following:

  • every time you find yourself on the way to the freezer for a purpose other than long-term storage, ask yourself "will my logistics be easier if this food isn't frozen as hard"
  • on every occasion calling for a bucket/bed of ice for chilling something, use the compartment instead.

You can find some uses, but they will be edge cases.

The best way to look at it is not as a variant of a fridge compartment, but as a variant of a freezer compartment. It will work pretty much as a freezer, but with a higher temperature.

So, as a first rule, don't store there anything that won't go in the freezer. Fruit or vegetables that are intended to be consumed fresh, for example, are a no-go, also emulsified products such as dairy substitutes.

As a second rule, your real freezer will be better at storing food than your special compartment. At its high temperatures, the storage time is only marginally longer than the fridge. So you can't use it to hamster food there.

You can still find reasons to use this compartment instead of a freezer though. A non-exhaustive list includes:

  • safe long thawing of food from the freezer (e.g. when you are not sure if you will come around to cooking it tomorrow or the day after)
  • serving sorbets at the optimal temperature (give them an overnight stay in that compartment to come up to temperature)
  • chilling a base for sorbet without the fear that it will freeze on you too quickly
  • freezing fruit for smoothies (the harder fruit from the freezer will cause more wear on your blender blades)
  • precooking for the week - cook at once and store portions in the compartment. The fridge is too warm for 5+ days, while storing it in the *** freezer means long thawing times, and also there is usually no freezer space free when you need it short-term.
  • chilling drinks for serving them very cold. It will be optimal for hard alcohol even with very long storage, and for anything else (beer, soda), it will chill down quicker than in the fridge, but won't run the danger of freezing.

You will probably come up with more uses over time. Just ask yourself, every time you use the freezer, if something would fit better with your logistics if it isn't frozen as hard.

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