How to freeze fresh dumplings
First things first: you need frozen dumplings to make them, right? And while you can buy them at the store (follow our taste testing recommendations), you’ll get much better results by making them yourself or buying fresh or frozen dumplings from a local restaurant (if you have a store that you particularly like, ask they will probably sell you raw dumplings!).
The trick is to freeze them individually and store them so they don’t burn in the freezer.
To freeze, place fresh dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or on a large plate dusted with a little flour or cornstarch. Place the entire tray of dumplings in the freezer without covering them and leave until completely frozen, about half an hour, then transfer the frozen dumplings to a zippered freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as possible, close the bag and store the dumplings for up to two months.
Freezer burn occurs when ice crystals sublimate, that is, they change directly from ice to water vapor, bypassing the water phase entirely. Sublimation can be controlled by limiting the amount of airflow around the dumplings. Since standard ziplock bags are actually breathable (air can pass through plastic very slowly), they are not suitable for long-term storage in the freezer. It is important that you use a zippered freezer bag, which is made from thicker plastic and is designed to prevent sticking in the freezer. Alternatively, use a standard zipper bag and then wrap tightly with two layers of aluminum foil. This will effectively block the access of air to the dumplings.
The easiest: steam or boil
Boiling frozen dumplings is the easiest way, although it takes the most time, as you have to wait until the pot of water boils.
To boil the dumplings, fill a large pot two-thirds full of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Place as many dumplings in the pan as will fit comfortably in one layer and cook them until they float to the top. Let them cook for another two or three minutes. Catch them with a strainer, strain and serve.
Steam cooking is a much faster method as you only need to bring a few cups of water to a boil instead of a whole pot. The texture of the dumplings will also make them a little more elastic and resilient. I generally prefer this texture over the softer texture that boiling gives. This requires the use of a bamboo wok or pot steamer. This is a worthwhile investment if you’re cooking Asian food, and they also make great storage devices for potatoes and onions.
Frozen dumplings will stick to the bamboo inside the steamer, so you need to level it first. If you have some Napa cabbage in your fridge, the leaves make great steamers. Alternatively, you can use parchment paper to make a breathable non-stick surface. Once you get the hang of it, you can cook dumplings in about the time it takes to get the water in the wok up to steaming level. Here’s how.
Step 1: Fold in half
Fold a sheet of parchment paper at least as long and wide as the diameter of your steamer in half.
Step 2: Fold in half again
Fold it in half in the other direction, creating a rectangle.
Step 3: Fold into a triangle
Fold the rectangle into a triangle, making sure that the tip of the new fold is at the main vertex of the original rectangle (the place that used to be the center of the entire sheet).
Step 4: Continue folding in half
Fold the triangle in half twice more to make a very long and narrow triangle.
Step 5: Trim the Back
Place the triangle on the steamer so that the tip is aligned over the center of the steamer. Trim the far end so that the triangle fits neatly inside the steamer.
Step 6: Cut the center
Cut off the very tip of the triangle.
Step 7: Make Holes
Make a series of very small triangular cuts along the edges of the large triangle. When the parchment is unrolled, vent holes are formed to allow steam to circulate around the dumplings.
Step 8: Expand and Paste
Unfold the parchment and insert it into the bamboo steamer. It should fit perfectly.
Step 9: Add dumplings and steam
Add the dumplings, then place the steamer on top of a wok or pan that just fits under it, filled with about an inch of water. Cover the steamer with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Steam dumplings until tender, about 10 minutes if you take them straight out of the freezer.
Do you want crispy dumplings? Use classic steam cooking
Steaming or pot cooking is the classic method of preparing Japanese gedza or Chinese go chi . Basically, you fry frozen dumplings, then add water to the pan and cover them with a lid to steam them, then fry them again once the water has evaporated. Double frying produces a very crispy crust.
The instructions on the back of a bag of frozen dumplings often skip the initial roasting for convenience, but it’s worth the time if you’re going to use this method.
Step 1: Pan fry
Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a nonstick or cast iron skillet over moderate heat until golden brown. Arrange the dumplings in a single layer and cook, flipping the pan, until evenly deep golden brown on the bottom, one to two minutes. It is important to turn over – this creates a more even crust.
Step 2: Add water and steam
Increase the heat to medium and add water until it covers the dumplings from a third to a half.
Step 3: Cover and Cook
Cover and steam until the dumplings are cooked through. Frozen dumplings will take anywhere from six to 10 minutes to cook, depending on their size (simply cut one in half and watch to make sure it’s done).
Step 4: Remove the lid and boil
Remove the lid and cook, turning the pan regularly, until the remaining water has evaporated and the dumplings are crisp again. Some recipes suggest leaving the dumplings alone without swirling them. I find that when flipped, they get a much better, more evenly browned and crispy crust.
The fastest way: reheat in the microwave and fry
I worked for several years as a chef in a trendy hotel restaurant. The hotel’s restaurants have one particular problem that makes them even more stressful than a regular restaurant: room service. You can find yourself in the thick of things you’ve ever had to get out of when an order comes in for a cheeseburger or a steak in your room. It has always been a priority for me to fulfill room orders as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.
One of the most popular items on the room service menu? Crispy fried dumplings that we stocked deep-fried in bulk, defrosted and cooked to order. You can bet your ass that I’ve come up with the fastest way to do this. Steaming in a non-stick pan is fast, but not fast enough. I needed to do it in five minutes or less.
This is the best way if you need a crispy, tender, juicy, fatty dish RIGHT NOW .
Step 1: Add dumplings and water to a microwave safe bowl
Place the frozen dumplings in a microwave-safe dish and add water until they are about half covered.
Step 2a: Cover and Microwave
Place a microwave-safe plate on top to cover the bowl, then turn the microwave on high until the dumplings are cooked through, about three minutes.
Step 2b: Preheat the pan
Meanwhile, heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Step 3: Drain and pat dry
Drain the dumplings, place them on a plate, and count to 15. This time will allow some of the moisture from their surface to evaporate so you don’t add too much water to the hot pan, causing it to splatter.
Step 4: Fry the dumplings
Place the dumplings in the pan, arrange so they are right side up, and cook, constantly shaking and turning the pan, until the dumplings are an even golden brown. This will take less than a minute. If you want them to be even crunchier, feel free to toast them on multiple surfaces.
Step 5: Serve
Transfer back to a plate and serve with dipping sauce. The freezer will turn into a belly in less than five minutes!