There is nothing quite like a bowl of warm chowder and a slice of bread on the slide on a cold day. Chowder is a relatively simple stand-alone dish. Yet it’s a delicious creamy soup that can keep your stomach and heart full.
But have you ever made a batch of corn chowder that is a little too much? Or do you have leftovers of your mother’s famous clam chowder? Can you save your chowder for later?
Well, luckily for you, one way of preserving your chowder for future meals is by freezing it. Freezing chowder can extend its shelf life, and you can avoid wasting any of your precious chowder!
In this article, I’ve covered all you need to know about freezing and defrosting chowder and the difference between freezing vegetable and seafood chowders. I’ll also share some tips on achieving the best frozen chowder.
Does Chowder Freeze Well?
The base of most traditional chowder usually consists of vegetable broth and some creamy or thickening agent. This can be heavy cream, milk, or both (half and half). This means that chowder has a relatively higher fat content than most soups out there. So, it may be slightly harder to freeze and retain its quality,
However, you can still freeze chowder and I’ve learned some tips to freeze them well, so they taste just as good fresh.
What Happens When You Freeze Chowder?
Due to the higher fat content, when freezing, the ingredients of the chowder may begin to separate. When thawed and reheated, you may experience a grainy or watery texture in your chowder. This is totally normal, and there are ways to fix it, which I’ll share below.
Freezing Different Chowder Types
Before freezing, you should also consider the type of chowder that you will be freezing. Every kind of chowder may need extra care and needs when freezing.
While the base of chowders is relatively standard in most recipes, I consider the most critical part when freezing is the other added ingredients. The most common type of chowders would be vegetable chowders, such as corn, and seafood chowders, such as fish chowder and clam chowder.
When it comes to vegetable chowders, you will usually add corn, carrots, onions, celery, and more. Vegetable chowders are relatively easier to freeze, and the texture will not change much.
But one thing to note for vegetable chowders is to cook the vegetables halfway as you will be cooking them again when you’ve thawed. Fully cooked vegetables may become mushy when you reheat them up. Alternatively, you can remove the vegetables from the chowder and add them when reheating it.
Seafood chowders, on the other hand, maybe slightly tricky to freeze. Most seafood, when stored correctly, will be safe to consume when frozen. However, some seafood, such as shellfish, should not be frozen for an extended period, as the quality may degrade and go bad faster. These ingredients may go bad faster than the actual chowder base.
Like with vegetable chowder, you can remove the seafood ingredients before freezing and add them later.
How to Freeze Chowder
Now that you know you can indeed freeze chowder, how do you go about freezing chowder? Well, it’s relatively simple. However, freezing chowder should be done with care, and you should store it properly to ensure it freezes well. All you will need is your chowder and some freezer-safe containers.
Here’s how you can freeze chowder at home:
Let your chowder cool down. Once you’ve cooked your chowder, take it off the stove and allow it to cool down before going onto any further steps. Freezing when anything is still hot may change your freezer’s temperature and cause the surrounding food to defrost and refreeze again. Stir occasionally to avoid lumps too.
Pour your chowder into a freezer-safe container or bag. Carefully pour your chowder into an airtight freezer-safe container or a sturdy resealable plastic bag. However, be careful when it comes to bags, as they may spill out or leak.
Leave some extra space in the bag and tightly seal it. Do leave a gap at the top of the bag or container, about one to two inches. This allows and gives space for the liquid in the chowder to expand when frozen. And tightly seal the bag or container.
Label the bag and freeze it. Finally, label with the date and content for future reference and store it in your freezer.
How Long Does Chowder Last in the Freezer?
While most soups will freeze for a long time, chowder will not freeze that long as it is creamy. Meaning it is rich in fat and has a shorter shelf-life than others.
If properly frozen and stored, your chowder can last you up to 4 months in the freezer. This also depends on what type of chowder you’ve made and how well you’ve frozen it.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, if food is properly prepared and stored at 0° F (-18° C), it will remain indefinitely safe to eat. Meaning to say your chowder can last much longer than 4 months! Freezing will stop most bacteria from growing; however, they do not kill the bacteria.
But, the quality and flavor of your chowder will most likely deteriorate with time. So my advice is to consume and enjoy your chowder as soon as possible to get the best taste. The sooner, the better!
Another food safety tip is while letting your chowder cool down, do not allow the chowder to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If kept at room temperature for too long, it will make your chowder a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and it will go bad quickly.
How to Defrost Chowder
Defrosting chowder is slightly trickier and more technical than freezing chowder. This is because of the creamy base and its unpredictability. No worries, defrosting chowder is still generally simple. With my instructions and tips below, you will be fine and do great!
Before we go on, just a quick note, it’s normal for your chowder to separate or have a different texture while freezing or even while it’s defrosting. But with the method below, you can avoid that and enjoy a good bowl of chowder.
Defrost your chowder in the fridge overnight. When ready to use, remove your frozen soup from the freezer, and defrost overnight in the fridge or at least 12 hours until it is chunky and soft. Ideally, you should give it as much time as possible to freeze to achieve consistent texture.
Heat chowder in a pan. Pour your chowder into a saucepan and gently reheat it over medium-high heat. Heat for around 15minutes or until fully cooked.
Stir well with a whisk or wooden spoon. You may notice that your chowder is separating, and the consistency is slightly off. And it’s okay! Consistently stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon for a few minutes to do the job. It will incorporate the ingredients and become well combined again, back to its original state.
Top Tips To Freeze Chowder
So now you know all the basics of freezing and defrosting chowder. I thought I’d leave you with some tips and tricks to freezing chowder. All from past mistakes and research from other chefs!
Separate ingredients when freezing
Since you are most likely making chowder from you, you control what goes in your chowder and what doesn’t. As mentioned before, I shared that it would be best to remove and separate ingredients such as potatoes, celery, clams, and more.
This leaves you freezing just the base of the chowder. This means that freezing would be more consistent, and it will less likely go bad due to all the different shelf-lives of the other ingredients.
When ready to eat, all you have to do is add your ingredients into the chowder when reheating. However, with this method, your chowder may not be as rich in flavor as if it was cooked with the ingredients. But it still tastes good to me!
Portion your servings
I usually make chowder in big batches. And freezing it in one whole bag is simply not feasible for me as I usually only need to defrost one serving. SO, if you’re like me and you’re cooking just for yourself or for smaller groups, portion and freeze your chowder into smaller bags or containers for individual servings.
By portioning your chowder into smaller quantities, it will save you the trouble of defrosting a whole batch of chowder. This will ensure that you only defrost what you need, and there will be no waste or refreezing required.
Add cream or cornstarch to thicken
Suppose whisking or consistently stirring your chowder has not recombined its ingredients or restored its texture. In that case, you can try adding some cream or cornstarch. If your chowder is grainy, slowly add some cream until you achieve your desired texture.
If your chowder is watery, add a cornstarch mixture. It consists of a teaspoon of cornstarch with some water. Add your cornstarch mixture into your chowder and bring it to a simmer until it begins to thicken to your desired consistency.
Vacuum seal your bag
Lastly, to save space in your freezer and keep your chowder as fresh as possible, vacuum seal your chowder! Vacuum sealing your bags of chowder will allow you to save space as you can freeze them lying flat. It will also reduce the chances of air or any bacteria entering your chowder.
Use plant-based milk or cream
As you know, chowder is a cream-based hot soup. While it is incredibly delicious, it may separate when heating and the texture changes. I suggest, to avoid and minimize the separation of ingredients of your chowder, you can try cooking your chowder with plant-based milk or cream. Such as oat, almond, or soy milk.
How to Tell if Chowder Has Gone Bad
While freezing chowder is relatively simple, freezing chowder may not always be successful since it has cream and other delicate ingredients inside.
Just like any perishable, chowder can go bad too. So it’s essential to look out for any signs that it has gone bad. The easiest way to tell if your chowder (or any food) has gone bad is by using your senses.
The simplest way to tell if your chowder has gone bad is to do a smell test. Bad chowder will have a sour or tangy gone-off smell. If it smells bad or anything other than chowder, be sure to throw it.
Another sign that your chowder has gone bad if its texture has significantly changed. Gone-off chowder may be too watery or develop mold. If so, discard it immediately.
If you’ve consumed bad chowder, you will most likely be fine. However, if you do feel sick, be sure to visit your doctor. If not, why not whip yourself a new batch of chowder?