Here's how to batch cook effectively and take the stress out of meal times
Looking for time-saving, cost-cutting ways to feed your family? Batch cooking not only helps you to reduce waste but the planning ahead will enable to you spend precious time with your nearest and dearest.
It’s also a great way to help friends and neighbours in need who might be unable to cook for themselves or just need a little pick-me-up in this period of social isolation.
Here are our top tips for making batch cooking easy, so you’re never left wondering what you’ll serve up for the evening meal.
Pick family favourites
Make simple dishes you know the whole household will enjoy as this ensures whatever you pick out of the freezer will be a hit with everyone. If you’ve got a fussy eater in the family, batch cooking is a blessing as you can prepare their favourite meals several days in advance and you’ll never run out of something to serve.
Use a base sauce
Make life easier by picking dishes that can be made with the same starter sauce. You can freeze your sauce in small portions ready to defrost as and when you need it, and don’t forget that one sauce can be used for a huge variety of dishes.
A basic tomato sauce is great for lasagne, chilli, bolognese, cassoulet, curry or even tomato soup whilst white sauce can be flavoured with veggies, herbs, cheese or even white wine for macaroni cheese, vegetable bakes, fish pie and coq au vin blanc.
Keep portions in proportion
For savoury dishes you can multiply recipe quantities easily, but watch your spices and seasoning to prevent overpowering the flavour of your ingredients. You can’t remove seasoning but you can add it gradually. Taste your food regularly and season only when it needs it.
Don’t fall into the trap of freezing huge portions as they will take a long time to defrost. A good portion of stew, chilli or soup will be 250-350ml so for a family of four you’d need a litre of food per batch. For pasta sauces 100-150ml is about right so a 600ml container will hold enough sauce for each meal.
Use large pans
Look for the litre measurements on saucepans, stock pots and casseroles to give you the most accurate idea if the pan is big enough. For a family of four you’ll need cookware that holds at least two litres to make more than one meal. For a slow cooked meal a 6.2 litre casserole dish can be popped in the oven for hours and holds enough food to make up to six family meals.
Keep your cool
Allow cooked food to completely cool before freezing or refrigerating to prevent the growth of bacteria. Once cool, pop on your airtight lid and freeze immediately. Cooling racks are a good way to speed up the process as they allow cold air to circulate under the dish.
Pick the right containers
Batch cooking containers need to be freezer safe and airtight so keep an eye out for these features when picking your container. Several containers of the same size maximise space in your freezer and Procook’s airtight glass ovenware dishes are a practical choice for going from oven to fridge to freezer to microwave.
For smaller quantities use Procook’s 600ml square storage containers that are perfect for stacking sauce portions in the freezer.
Date those dishes
Freezing prolongs the life of food but it doesn’t last forever so it’s important to date your food to ensure it’s eaten in plenty of time. Once frozen many dishes look the same, is that one frozen chilli or bolognese? Labelling your dishes prevents any nasty shocks when you think you’re making a Friday night curry only to find it’s your picky teenager’s pasta sauce.
For more inspiration, recipes and tips visit blog.procook.co.uk