Freezing Chinese Food (Can You?)
Chinese food is so delicious that it is really a challenge not to order all of your favorite dishes all at once. However, once you are done feasting, there are usually a lot of leftovers.
This might have you asking, “Can I freeze leftover Chinese food?”
Can You Freeze Leftover Chinese Food?
You might have leftover Chinese food because you have ordered too much from a restaurant or couldn’t finish eating all of your takeout.
However, you will be happy to know that, Yes, you can freeze Chinese food leftovers.
Don’t think that your Chinese leftovers have to go to waste. As long as you pack thm correctly in an airtight container or zipped freezer bag, your Chinese food should last for three months in the freezer.
You can also freeze homemade Chinese food and pack it away for quick and easy meals when you don’t have much time.
Some of the simplest and easiest Chinese food dishes to create and freeze at home are Chicken With Broccoli, Beef Fried Rice, and Spicy Pork With Tofu.
How To Freeze Chinese Food
It is a mistake to believe that Chinese takeout can be safely eaten after being stored in a fridge for five to six days. Yet, a lot of people believe this.
According to the Federal Drug and Food Administration food safety guidelines, you should store leftovers in the refrigerator for three or four days at most, and then they need to be thrown out.
That is because bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F. Freezing is a safer option because it chills food quickly, stunting bacteria growth.
It is also helpful to divide the Chinese food into multiple airtight containers or zipper freezer bags before you pack it away. Smaller amounts of food freeze faster and prevent spoilage.
Some Chinese Food Leftovers Freeze Better Than Others
Chinese dishes that are all or mostly vegetables, such as chow mein or bok choy (Chinese broccoli), freeze well with next to no risk.
Foods that are riskier to freeze are proteins, such as chicken, pork, or fish. This is especially true if they have been warming in a chafing dish for a few hours at a Chinese buffet. The recipe for food poisoning is to add food, moisture, warmth, and time.
The riskiest Chinese leftovers to eat are those dishes that contain shellfish such as lobster, prawns, shrimp, or mussels. If there is any doubt in your mind that a Chinese dish with shellfish, such as shrimp with lobster sauce, has been sitting out for too long, then don’t take it home.
Chinese foods that contain a lot of sesame oil may taste odd after freezing, and some types of thicker noodles might also lose their structure and become mushy.
Fried rice survives well in the freezer, but fried meats such as sweet and sour chicken or breaded shrimp may lose their texture or become tasteless.
Leave Chinese Leftovers Older Than 2 Hours Behind
Chinese food that has been left sitting on a table in a restaurant for more than two hours before being packed for takeout should not be taken home.
According to the FDA food safety guidelines, food that is two hours old is already in the process of spoiling.
If the air temperature is over 90F, as it might be if you are eating on an outdoor patio in the summer, then it starts to go bad if it is left out for more than one hour.
Storing Leftover Chinese Food
Storing your leftover Chinese takeout safely begins at the restaurant. Some restaurants provide you with sturdy, leak-proof plastic containers, but the majority pack takeaway leftovers in aluminum foil, styrofoam, or cardboard containers.
Containers For Storing Chinese Food
The problem with both styrofoam and cardboard Chinese food containers is that they don’t shut tightly, allowing air in and often the sauce to spill out all over the bottom of the plastic bag.
Takeout food that has been stored in aluminum food containers usually has its edges crimped over a flat circle of cardboard. You can put these in the freezer, but to prevent freezer burn, also wrap it tightly in plastic or place it in a freezer bag.
If your takeout is stored in an airtight container with a tight plastic lid, then you do not have to transfer your food to other containers.
However, the best course of action is to store your leftover Chinese food in multiple smaller plastic containers to freeze it faster.
Should You Thaw Leftover Chinese Food?
You can let frozen Chinese food thaw overnight in your refrigerator, but it is not necessary. You can easily warm it up within minutes without defrosting it first.
The great thing about taking frozen Chinese food to work to eat for lunch is that it generally stays frozen solid for quite a few hours.
However, it is not a good idea, once you get to work, to just let it thaw on a counter at room temperature. This cultivates harmful bacteria growth. Be sure to store it in a staff room fridge until you are ready to reheat it.
How To Tell If Frozen Chinese Food Has Freezer Burn
Chinese food with freezer burn is usually dehydrated and covered with ice crystals. You may be tempted to eat it, but it is not likely to taste that great, as freezer burn eliminates flavor.
Reheating Leftover Chinese Food
Reheating frozen Chinese food is easy if you transfer it to a microwave-safe container and warm it on high for two to three minutes.
Sometimes the original packaging of your takeout Chinese is an actual microwave-safe container. You should check the package’s bottom to see if it has the microwavable symbol on it.
You can also use a slow cooker, also known as a crockpot, to reheat dishes that have a bit of sauce to them, such as honey garlic ribs, chicken with celery and almonds (Almond Guy Ding), or spiced pork chili with tofu (Mapo Tofu).
Containers For Reheating Chinese Food
The best containers for freezing Chinese food are plastic airtight ones. You can often take one of these containers directly from the freezer and pop it into the microwave to reheat.
If the food came in aluminum food containers, you can usually just take off the cardboard top and pop it in the oven. Food warmed up this way works well to help crisp up rice, noodles, and fried meats.
Adding a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, or chili oil to a leftover Chinese dish and heating it in a frying pan also recreates the original taste nicely.
When Good Chinese Food Goes Bad
Write the date that you decided to freeze the Chinese food on its containers or bags. Once it’s passed the three-month mark, don’t eat it.
The reason for doing this is that spoiled Chinese food cannot always be detected by smell, especially if it does not contain meat.
If it does contain meat, you should be able to detect the fishy or rotten smells of rank proteins. Thaw the frozen Chinese food out and smell it if you are not certain.
Freezing Chinese Food – Conclusion
Chinese food leftovers (takeout or home cooked) will generally keep well in the freezer. The exception to this is any deep-fried meats or vegetables with breading, as they will tend to turn to mush. You can freeze Chinese food for up to three months when packaged correctly and protected from direct contact with the dry freezer air.