Chinese food is popular in almost all its forms. These forms include everything from five-star restaurants to the local place around the corner. And let’s not forget about store-bought frozen dishes like egg rolls or orange chicken.
But without a doubt, one of the most popular ways to enjoy Chinese food is in the form of takeaway or takeout.
The only problem with Chinese takeout is, well, it’s so good that sometimes you order too much. Or maybe you were super hungry when you ordered but now you’re stuffed and have more sweet and sour pork than you know what to do with. Then again, maybe the portions were way bigger than expected.
Whatever the case, you may be in a situation where you’ve got leftover Chinese takeaway and now you’re wondering if you can freeze it or not. The good news is, yes, you can freeze your leftover Chinese food.
Of course, there are some caveats when it comes to freezing those leftovers. However, if you do it the right way, there’s no reason you can’t freeze your leftovers and enjoy them a couple of months from now.
So, instead of throwing out perfectly good leftovers or trying to eat them all over the next couple of days, let’s get into the details of why and how you can freeze Chinese takeout in just a few simple steps.
So, Can You Really Freeze Leftover Chinese Takeaway?
Hey, we weren’t kidding. You can absolutely freeze leftover Chinese takeaway or takeout, whatever you prefer to call it. That doesn’t mean you should close a carton of sweet and sour pork or roll up a bag of egg rolls and throw them in the ice box.
There are some things you should do and/or avoid to make sure your frozen leftovers maintain the quality and taste you’ll be expecting when they’re reheated later.
Cool the Food
This doesn’t mean you need to throw the food into the fridge before putting it in the freezer. Instead, you want to let the food come down to room temperature if it hasn’t been sitting out too long.
The faster it cools down, the easier it is to avoid bacterial contamination. Our recommendation is to spread your leftovers out into smaller portions, especially rice dishes, to ensure any lingering heat dissipates quicker.
If your food has been sitting out a while (less than 2 hours) it should already be at room temperature, if not pretty darn close.
Don’t Freeze Hot Leftovers
We already recommended cooling the food. However, we should also point out why you don’t want to freeze hot leftovers.
The main reasons you want to avoid freezing hot or warm food are that it can lead to bacterial growth (especially in rice dishes), is hard on the cooling system of the freezer, and can encourage ice crystals to form due to freezing condensation.
Ice crystals can ruin the flavor and texture of your food once reheated.
Use Containers that are Airtight and Freezer-Appropriate
Using the right containers or resealable freezer bags are the preferred choices for freezer storage. They will help ward off freezer burn while keeping your Chinese take-out fresh for several months.
Also, use smaller containers, even if it means using more. This will ensure the food is at room temperature faster rather than lumping everything into one big container, which may lead to food staying warmer than desired, followed by unwanted bacterial growth.
Reheat Your Leftovers the Right Way
What way would that be? Well, it means you should thaw the leftovers in the fridge before reheating them. Don’t think of these leftovers as premade frozen food you pick up at the grocery store.
They’re more fragile than that. Reheating while still frozen can mess up the texture and flavor. Instead, thaw the food and then reheat it in a skillet or wok. This will keep the food from drying out.
Reheat to 165°F to ensure any bacteria present is killed off.
And stay away from the microwave. Even if the food is thawed, the microwave can change the texture of your food to something resembling rubber and kill any flavor you were hoping for.
What Type of Chinese Takeaway Makes the Best Frozen Leftovers?
Maybe the second most important question after whether you can freeze Chinese takeaway is what Chinese takeaway makes the best frozen leftovers. After all, if it isn’t going to come out of the freezer tasting good, why waste the time freezing it in the first place, right?
It’s a valid point but it should also be pointed out that the quality of the food and preparation play key factors in how the food turns out after being frozen and reheated. That being said, popular choices for frozen Chinese takeout leftovers include:
- Orange Chicken and Other Derivatives (General Tso, Kung Pao, etc)
- Beef or Chicken with Broccoli
- Chow Mein
- Fried Rice
Of course, this list is short and subjective, but they’re also some of the most popular dishes when it comes to takeout.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
How Long Does Chinese Takeaway Last in the Freezer?
If placed in airtight containers or freezer bags, your Chinese takeaway leftovers should last 3 – 4 months.
What About In The Refrigerator?
Remember, foods are perishable and freezers are colder than refrigerators. Although frozen leftovers can last 3 – 4 months in the freezer and still taste good when thawed and reheated, once the leftovers are thawed, even in the refrigerator, they’re only good for 2 – 3 days.
After that, they should probably be discarded to avoid possible food-borne illnesses.
What’s the Food “Danger Zone”?
According to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), food shouldn’t be left sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Food that is left beyond that will fall within a certain temperature range, which means bacteria can breed and run rampant.
That temperature range is between 40°F and 140°F (4°C – 60°C). This is also known as the “danger zone”.