Baked beans are a standard commercialized product using haricot or navy beans. They are made with different flavorings, sauces and paired with meat such as bacon or sausage. Baked beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber. They also contain iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, and vitamin C. The beans can be eaten as a side dish or made into a main course with rice or pasta.
Canned baked beans contain preservatives designed to extend shelf life and can be kept in the pantry. If unopened, canned baked beans left in the pantry for more than six months past their expiration date may develop bacteria that can lead to food poisoning.
When opening, Baked beans can be frozen. To retain the beans’ original flavor and texture, store in an airtight container before putting in the freezer for three to six months.
Can Baked Beans be Frozen in their Original Container?
Baked beans stored in regular glass jars should not be placed directly in the freezer. Water content from the sauce will expand when frozen and could cause the glass jar to break.
Jars made with tempered glass are safe for freezing because it has a higher level of strength than regular glass. It is more resistant to breakage, shattering, or damage from temperature changes.
If baked beans are in their original container with no preservatives, they will need to be transferred into another type of storage container for freezing before being sealed off. Using a vacuum sealer is ideal so that any gases do not expand and cause the baked beans to break down due to pressure.
Freezing Baked Beans
It is recommended to freeze homemade baked beans on the same day they were made to avoid changes in flavor and texture. Warm baked beans should be cooled completely before storing them in the freezer. Placing hot beans directly in the freezer may cause the container to crack or burst due to the sudden temperature change. The cold air from the freezer can also cause uncooled baked beans to split and become mushy after thawing and reheating.
After making sure that the baked beans are completely cooled down, choose a freezer-safe container. These containers are often airtight, BPA-free, and have little risk of cracking with temperature changes.
Baked beans can also be divided into smaller portions before being placed in containers. Ensure to leave some space at the top of the container since the sauce will slightly expand when frozen due to water content. Filling the container to the brim will cause the beans to push on the lid, opening the container. As a result, the baked beans may develop freezer burn or absorb unwanted flavors and odors.
Some baked beans are made with various flavorings and meat. Using an airtight container or vacuum sealer will also protect the meat from drying out. Remember to date and label with containers before putting them in the freezer.
Defrosting and Reheating Baked Beans
There are several ways to defrost baked beans.
First, place the container of beans in the refrigerator overnight or set it at room temperature for two hours. Baked beans can also be defrosted by placing them in a pot on low to medium heat. If the sauce has dried out a little from freezing, add some water. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Reheat to at least 165°F to eliminate any harmful bacteria.
The beans can also be microwaved on “high” until heated through, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning. If the baked beans were incompletely frozen and have a mushy texture after thawing, add some water and heat over low-moderate heat to desired consistency.
Thirdly, the beans can be re-baked in the oven. The oven should be preheated to 350°F and baked for about one hour. Make sure to stir the beans every 20 minutes or so. The baked beans can also be covered with foil to prevent burning at the top.
The last option is using a slow cooker set at low heat for six hours with enough water to cover the bottom of the pot by about two inches.
Do I Have to Defrost Baked Beans?
Frozen baked beans can be reheated right away but may result in mushy beans or watery sauce. Placing frozen beans directly in the oven without defrosting them first may also result in overcooked beans on the outside layers and cold beans on the inside. Once defrosted, it is best not to refreeze them again due to changes in flavor and texture during storage.
Traditional homemade baked beans contain onions, garlic, beans, ketchup, molasses, sugar, other seasonings, and occasionally, meat. Some of these ingredients may affect the shelf life of baked beans.
Meat products will cause the beans to have a shorter shelf life. Baked beans with fish or chicken can be stored in the freezer for four to six months. When cooked with red meat or leftover meat, the baked beans can be kept for up to three months in the freezer. It is recommended to freeze the meat and beans separately to extend their shelf life.
Next, sugars such as molasses, honey, and maple syrup attract bacteria. Cooking baked beans with less or no sugar is recommended for a longer shelf life. Since oil also attracts bacteria, it is best not to add too much during cooking.
Freshly diced tomatoes or other vegetables may affect the freshness of the beans. Although fresh tomatoes can last in the freezer for up to six months, they deteriorate in flavor and quality after three months.
Ingredients such as ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce generally will not affect the shelf life of baked beans. However, be mindful of ingredients near their expiry date to avoid rapid spoilage and possible cases of food poisoning. Check the baked beans every few months for any changes in color or texture due to freezing.