There is no right or wrong when it comes to getting your daily greens–whether they’re frozen or fresh, they still provide nutrition. If a certain vegetable is in season or on sale, it’s highly likely you’re going to be cooking them within a day or two. Although buying fresh veggies is a great tasty way to implement your greens into a quick dinner meal, they can spoil if you don’t use them right away. Sometimes it’s best to go for the frozen veggies and get more bang for your buck–after all, they won’t spoil!
Still, there’s a chance you can be making a few mistakes when it comes to cooking frozen vegetables. To help keep your tasty recipes in line, avoid making these common mistakes in your next meal.
4. Not All Veggies Need to Be Cooked
Yes, not all veggies are the same. They don’t need to be placed in a pot, pan or microwave. “You do not need to cook frozen veggies, just like you don’t need to cook frozen fruit,” said Toby Amidor, MS, RD, Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author of Smart Meal Prep for Beginners and The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. “You can defrost them and then toss on a salad–though you will need to make sure they’re fully defrosted and slightly at room temperature to do so,” Amidor said.
Eating raw veggies increases their nutritional value and saves you plenty of time. “Exposure to high heat can degrade certain nutrients, such as vitamin C, but don’t worry too much, you have to overcook to destroy all of the vitamins,” said Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, author of Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook. For instance, “frozen corn can just be run under cold water to defrost, and then it’s ready to add to a salad. Heating and then cooling is fine too, but takes longer,” she said. “I love adding frozen cauliflower to smoothies to boost the nutrients, plus it helps make the smoothie perfectly frosty,” she added.
3. Defrosting All Frozen Vegetables
Defrosting your vegetables isn’t always necessary. “It really depends on what you are cooking. Frozen vegetables, no matter which, can be cooked from a frozen state,” said Amidor. “Because they are small pieces (compared to a big beef or pork roast, for example), as long as they reach a minimum internal cooking temperature of about 135/140F they are safe to eat,” Amidor mentioned.
Shockingly, defrosting might backfire when it comes to frozen herbs, said White. “Frozen herbs can be a wonderful flavor booster, but they can’t be defrosted and then used–they lose their structure during the freezing process, so be sure to add them directly to hot foods such as soups, sauces, and cooked pasta,” she said. “For other vegetables like broccoli or bell peppers, you have more wiggle room. They can defrost and then be reheated without losing their integrity,” she mentioned. However, there are certain cases where you will want to fully defrost and remove the liquid from the frozen vegetable to avoid watering down your dish.
2. Sticking to the Microwave
Sometimes when we’re in a hurry, we resort to one of man’s greatest inventions–the microwave. Using the microwave to cook is a great option to have. “The microwave is best for foods with a smaller surface area–I would never take the extra time to defrost bagged frozen veg like green beans, corn, peas, and carrots on the stovetop when I can just pop them in the microwave,” said White. “Just like any moist heat method, however, if left too long it can destroy some of the vitamins,” said Amidor. Instead, try to steam, blanch, sauté or stir-fry the veggies, according to White.
It is extremely important to keep a close eye on the cooking time when putting your veggies in the microwave. “The microwave itself can affect how long food needs to be cooked. Start with 60 seconds and add from there. It’s also important to stir, as most microwaves produce hot spots,” said White. “I find that vegetables like broccoli seem to hold a decent amount of water during the freezing process and don’t need added water,” she said.Related: Don’t Reheat These Foods in the Microwave
1. Not Varying Cooking Time
When taking a stroll through the frozen foods section at your grocery store, it is likely you’re envisioning what delicious recipe you’ll be using them to make. However, a big mistake is assuming all veggies have the same cooking time. “Different vegetables have different cooking times. For smaller pieces, or thinner or softer foods, they will have a quicker cooking time (think pea-carrot mixture),” said Amidor. “However, for foods like squash or large chunks of vegetables, they may need a little extra time to cook through.”
Adding a splash of water to foods like peas and corn is a great trick when cooking them. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that larger foods should be cooked, rather than eaten raw. “I guess the biggest ones I can think of that really should be cooked are potatoes, sweet potato, and butternut squash to make them more tender and easier to eat,” said White.Related: 23 Frozen Foods You Should Never Buy