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My wife and I cooked too much elbow macaroni one night, so we put it in a gallon freezer bag in the freezer. A few days later when I took it out, it had formed a solid mass the size of an eggplant. I didn't want 4 cups of pasta. I just wanted part of it.

I tried using a strong serrated bread knife to saw a chunk off, but only made it halfway through the pasta-meteorite. (And it made my hand really cold holding it.)

I wound up running hot water over one end and catching the semi-thawed pasta in a colander.

There must be other, better approaches. Any ideas?

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If you can anticipate that need, try to divide leftovers into individual portions before you freeze it so not to run into this problem. But that doesn't necessarily mean breaking it up into multiple containers piled into your freezer.

If the freezer bag is not too full, I've been known to "pinch" or section off portions of the bag before it freezes solid. Those big snack clips make great dividing tools if you clamp it on from the outside. That way you can more-easily break off chunks along the frozen perforations you created.

Depending on how wet the food is, you can also try to divide portions between layers of wax paper before freezing. The layers don't have to separate the food completely. Adding two layers of wax paper between the portions as you add them to the bag is typically enough to let you slip a knife in there and break them apart after they freeze solid.

But barring any of these pre-preparation methods, you can pop the frozen mass in the microwave and start defrosting it just enough to loosen it up a bit. You don't want to completely defrost a giant block of food you intend to refreeze; it will turn to mush or get that warmed-over taste many times over (yuck). But microwaving the block just long enough to get past that "solid mass" stage will usually loosen it up so it can be broken apart with a knife. A block of food just below freezing is much easier to break apart than something that has been sitting in the deep freeze.

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ice pick or chisel. I'm sure there's a kitchen equivalent at ikea or Williams-Sonoma. Just like with a knife, be careful.

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My suggestion is to hit the block with a hammer. If a sledge hammer is used, go easy. If a smaller hammer is used, force is required. Put the pieces not wanted back in the bag. I would probably spread out newspaper on the garage floor and smash there. Newspaper is relatively germ-free.

  • Shoot, I was close to a solution like this but I didn't quite get there! I was thinking I had to use a hammer & chisel (or hammer & screwdriver) but I didn't want a chisel / screwdriver directly touching my dinner. I could have put a towel between the hammer and the macaroni (but not between a chisel and the macaroni)! Thanks for your solution. – BrettFromLA Mar 5 '15 at 0:52
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    Wipe the hammer off first. Germs don't live well outside a host, so not much worry about that. But you don't want grease and dirt on your pasta! – subjectivist Mar 5 '15 at 4:55

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