When you’re trying to sell a new dinner idea, sometimes, it’s all in the marketing. Freezer fusion is a name I came up with to describe what is really just a mishmash of leftover stuff from the freezer. The word “fusion” sounds more refined and also like it is a meal deliberately created in this manner, not just something slapdash.
What Is Freezer Fusion?
In my Fridge & Freezer Basics post, I recommend keeping frozen appetizers around, if you have space. They are great for light lunches, snacks, and side dishes. But what happens when you find your freezer littered with half-open packages of appetizers? You cook up all the little bits, serve them for dinner with a vegetable or salad on the side, and call it freezer fusion.
Freezer fusion includes things like mini quiche and pizzas, spring rolls, samosas, falafels, potato wedges, cocktail meatballs, chicken nuggets, sausage rolls, mini spanakopita and empanadas, chicken satay–anything that comes in small portions in the frozen aisle. If you have small amounts of frozen vegetables kicking around, you can also steam some of those as a side dish.
Freezer fusion is something I only do once in a while, since these items tend to be rather high in sodium and fat. But it is a good option for cleaning up the freezer and getting a meal together quickly. Plus, dining on appetizers is fun.
- Before you put anything in the oven, check all the cooking times and temperatures of the various items. You may need to stagger the items so they can cook at the appropriate temperature. The first time you do this, it could be a little labour-intensive as you sort out how long each item needs. After you’ve done it once or twice, you’ll have it down to a science.
- Because of the variation in cooking times and temperatures, it is often easier to select 3-4 items for your freezer fusion meal. If you have a large item or a toaster oven and conventional oven, you can do more, but managing a lot of items in one oven can be cumbersome.
Next is the issue of how to fit all the various bits into your oven. From a food safety perspective, you might be wondering if it is okay to combine different items on one baking pan. I have a Safe Food Handling certificate, but I have to be honest that even I’m not totally sure on this issue. I use my own common sense approach that I believe is very safe, but with a disclaimer that it may not pass muster with food safety experts. I have never had anyone become ill from my “method,” but if you follow these guidelines, consider yourself warned: I am not telling you this is 100% safe as per public health/food safety rules. Nor am I directing you to follow my instructions; I’m just putting them out there as an example that should be considered against your own food safety knowledge and, if you feel it necessary, verified with a food safety expert. Clear? OK. Let’s go.
- Some frozen appetizers come fully cooked, and they are fairly forgiving as far as temperature, that is, you can often select a temperature in the middle if the suggested ranges vary and adjust the cooking time. For example, you could put a 425F and 450F item at about 435F and leave the higher temperature item in the oven longer, but take the lower temperature item out sooner. Always heed all package warnings and ensure the foods are cooked to the specified internal temperature, if one is provided.
- A lot of these items tend to be self-contained, i.e. they don’t leak, so I combine different items on a single baking pan, as some party packs allow for. I always ensure they have roughly the same cooking time and temperature. This is safer and makes things easier. (Imagine having a few samosas on a pan that are done 10 minutes before other items. You have to take the pan out, remove the samosas, then put the pan back in the oven.) Or, if you prefer to keep different items divided, create small “trays” out of aluminum foil. Lay a sheet of foil on the baking pan, place the items you are cooking on the foil, then fold up the sides to create a barrier. Repeat for each item.
- Uncooked items should be cooked on their own pans. For example, do not combine uncooked meatballs and pre-cooked spring rolls on the same pan. Nor should you combine multiple types of uncooked meat on the same pan.
- If the appetizers have microwave instructions, you can cook them partway in the microwave then place them in the oven to finish and crisp up. This can reduce cooking times for all of the items.
- If you have a toaster oven and a conventional item, use both, if needed. Air fryers work with some frozen appetizers too.
- If some items are done early, place them on a serving tray and top them loosely with foil. You want some of the steam to escape so they don’t turn mushy.
- Serve with a variety of dips, suitable to whatever you are serving. Tamarind sauce is great for Indian food but also livens up plain chicken fingers or nuggets. Plum sauce, salsa, dijon mustard, BBQ sauce, buffalo chicken sauce, pizza/tomato sauce, and good old ketchup are all good options. You can also create your own “aioli” by adding chipotle hot sauce to mayonnaise. BBQ sauce and mayonnaise make a good dip too, as does plain mayo.
Image of refrigerator by Yusakprahadi | Dreamstime.