For easy long-term storage of bulk perishables, for leftovers, or to hold food until you’re able to get around to canning it, or to pre-freeze what you’ll be sticking in the freeze dryer next day, your chest freezer is the way. Here are some thoughts on buying and using chest freezers.
1) Some people like upright freezers. Not me. All the cold air falls out on the floor every time you open the door. That doesn’t happen with chest freezers. Chest freezers are more efficient.
2) You can spend over a thousand dollars on a Big Bertha 24 cubic foot chest freezer but that takes up a lot of space, stuff goes missing in a freezer that size. You might find a chicken from the Clinton administration in there. Full freezers use less energy. Most people who have huge freezers don’t keep them full. And if it craps out all of your eggs are in one basket. For less money you can get two smaller freezers; say a 7 and a 9 cubic foot. Two smaller units take up less space. They’ll use less energy because you open one or the other for a meal. If one freezer goes out, you can high grade the food and put in in the freezer that’s still working.
3) Two freezers are also good to separate foods like fish. If a freezer bag fails you might get some fishy smell in that peach pie you baked in advance because fresh peaches were in season.
4) If your plan is to just go buy another freezer if yours craps out, that may not be an option. Remember during Covid there was that national shortage of freezers? For months? In Juneau the stores were selling out the day freezers got to town.
5) A lot of people on the internet complain that their freezer went out and they lost all their food. They proceed to blame the manufacturer. That may be warranted but the obvious fault lies with the complainers for not paying attention. Check your freezer every day. It just takes a moment. Do it even if your freezer has a little light on the outside that tells you the power is still on. It’s not unheard of for the little light to have power but the freezer has lost power.
6) In the days before planned obsolescence freezer makers recommended that owners wipe a thin film of petroleum jelly around the gasket where the lid meets the chest once a year. It keeps a better seal.
8) Keep a thermometer in the freezer where you can check it easily when you check your freezer every day.
9) Fill a small jar half full of water. Freeze it solid. Put a coin on top of the ice. Leave it in the chest freezer. That way, if power goes out while you’re out of town, and the freezer thaws but then refreezes when the power comes back on, and refreezes everything, you’ll know something happened and can evaluate your food. If the coin is only sunk into the ice a bit, the food’s probably fine.
10) Keep an open bag of baking soda in the freezer to absorb smells.
11) Think about what size generator you’d need to run the freezer if the power went out for an extended time. We’ll visit that in the ‘Playing What If’ section.
12) If you have two chest freezers and your refrigerator goes out, there are lots of DIY tutorials on how to turn a chest freezer into a very efficient refrigerator. Here’s one. https://reductionrevolution.com.au/blogs/how-to/convert-freezer-to-fridge
13) Recommended chest freezer temperature is zero degrees F (that’s minus 18 degrees C). A lot of freezers run a couple degrees warmer: say around 5 degrees F which hasn’t been a problem for us.
14) Sometimes you see garage ready on a freezer. That means it’s well insulated and can be where temperatures can range between zero degrees F and 100 degrees F.
15) I’ve got a friend who ‘does things well.’ One time he put his chest freezer out on his deck thinking it would be more energy efficient where it was cold. I thought that was a great idea until a late season bear came and tore the top off the freezer. (Freezer locks are nothing to a determined bear). And a hundred pounds of the guy’s fish were strewn all down the hill. Putting the freezer outside is bad idea anyway because weather might get to the electronics.
15) Label everything you put in the freezer with the date you put it in there. We all think we’ll remember but time goes by and you wonder, “Was this from last Christmas or the one before?”
16) Don’t buy a used freezer from someone you don’t know. Long ago, a neighbor of mine bought a garage sale freezer for $50. It never got down to freezing and he got stuck with having to pay for getting the freon out which cost more than the freezer. He fantasized about leaving it on top of the seller’s car in the middle of the night, but in the end just chalked it up to experience.
This is how we froze fish in a cannery I worked in. It works for poultry as well. 1) pre-freeze the fish hard. 2) dunk it twice in ice water–make the ice water a little more viscous by melting some honey in hot water (the cannery used corn syrup)-letting it cool- then dump it into the ice water). Quickly dunk each frozen fillet into the water. Dunk again. This forms a barrier of ice around the fish that keeps it from oxidizing. 3) Vacuum seal. Label with date and type of fish. It’ll be bullet proof in the freezer for over a year.