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Freeze or eat? What to do with those summer leftovers

by Madelyn Fernstrom /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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 Juan Pablo whipped up delicious guacamole for Cinco de Mayo on TODAY. And guac freezes well, so pop any you have left over into the freezer to enjoy later. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Warm and sunny weather is here, drawing many people outdoors for weekend entertaining. But whether you're firing up the grill or having a picnic at a park, there are usually leftovers — and the question of what to do with them.

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If you’re wondering whether it’s OK to freeze those foods for later use, you’ve got plenty of company. Safety is always key when storing any kind of food, so it’s comforting to know that all foods that are frozen remain safe to eat. The trouble is, their taste, flavor and texture are often altered. A favorite recipe can turn into unpalatable leftovers.

When lefotvers are stored in the fridge, you should eat them within about three days. If you've put them in the freezer instead, a good general rule is to consume the food within three to four months for optimal flavor. Frozen food is safe to eat, but will likely need a seasoning adjustment when thawed.

So the question remains: Freeze it or eat it? Check out our choices for these popular leftovers:

Potato salad:

Eat it! Mayonnaise-containing foods do not freeze well, and their texture changes. The potatoes can become mushy, and if hard-boiled eggs are included, they become rubbery and chewy.

Fresh berries:

Eat them! Berries do not freeze well. Even when frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet, the high water content makes them watery and mushy when thawed, similar to frozen berries you’d purchase at the supermarket. (However, frozen berries are great for a sauce, in smoothies, or even blended for an easy fruit-ice or frozen pop.)

Grilled burgers and hot dogs:

Freeze them! Cooked burgers and hot dogs freeze well, maintaining their full flavor for up to four months. It’s important to wrap them carefully to prevent air from entering the package, which can cause freezer burn (this impacts texture, but not safety).Freeze burgers and hot dogs within two hours of serving to avoid any potential bacterial growth that might cause food-borne illness when the food is thawed and served. (The freezer does NOT kill bacteria, but it does limit their spread.)

Deviled eggs:

Eat them! Egg whites become rubbery and chewy when frozen. And the egg-yolk mixture contains mayonnaise, which does not freeze well. This guideline applies to all hard-cooked egg dishes, including egg salad.


Freeze it! Avocado-based dips freeze well, maintaining optimal taste and texture. Because all guacamole recipes contain lime and/or lemon, the acid in those fruits prevents browning, and this is maintained when the guac is frozen. When you thaw it, add some chopped tomatoes to add color and flavor.

Frozen margaritas and daiquiris:

Freeze them! Alcohol is stable indefinitely in the freezer, and the fruit slurries used are already blended, so freezing doesn’t impact thier texture. But remember to remove any fresh fruit pieces before freezing: they become mushy when thawed. Add some fresh fruit slices when serving again.

Fresh fruit pies:

Freeze them! Fruit pies of all varieties freeze well when properly packaged. For a freshly baked pie, cool it thoroughly before freezing. Wrap the leftovers carefully in airtight containers to avoid accumulation of ice crystals that can make the crust soggy.

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