If you are wondering whether you can safely refreeze meat, the answer is yes, with some conditions.
You can refreeze previously thawed meat if it was properly defrosted in the refrigerator and hasn’t sat outside of the fridge for any length of time. Refreezing thawed meat requires that you strictly adhere to all food safety handling guidelines.
In this article, I will give you insight into refreezing meat once it has been thawed and how to handle it properly.
Can and Should You Be Refreezing Thawed Meat?
When it comes to refreezing previously thawed raw meat, some rules need to be followed in order to make sure that the meat continues to be safe to eat.
- You can refreeze the unused portion of raw meat only if it has been thawed in the refrigerator. Thawed meat should not be refrozen if you have used any other means to defrost it, such as letting it sit on the kitchen counter or using a microwave.
- Also, be aware that some of the quality of the meat will be lost when your freeze it, thaw it and refreeze it again due to a loss of moisture.
- Under no circumstances should you refreeze raw meat that has spent longer than 1-2 hours outside the fridge at, near, or above room temperature.
If you thawed and stored the uncooked meat correctly the first time, it should be safe to freeze it again without cooking it first.
The most important food safety tips to consider when you are refreezing food are:
- Store it properly in the refrigerator during the thawing process.
- Freeze the meat the first time within 3 to 4 days. Don’t freeze it after being in the fridge for longer.
- Do not leave the meat in temperatures higher than 90°F (32°C) longer than an hour
- Not to leave it out of the refrigerator longer than 2 hours regardless of the temperature.
Be aware that freezing meat more than once will lead to changes in color, increased oxidation of fat, and loss of moisture. This also affects its juiciness and tenderness once cooked.
Refreezing Meat: Type of Meat Makes a Difference
Different types of meat can be affected differently when taken out of the freezer. For example, lean cuts like chicken breasts or pork chops are less likely to suffer as much degradation when they are put back in the freezer after thawing.
On the other hand, fatty meats such as ground beef or lamb chops can lose a lot of their flavor and juiciness after being through the freezing and thawing process more than once.
Refreezing Raw Meat
Raw meat may be defrosted and refrozen, but it is not ideal. The quality of the meat will likely be impacted as well as its safety. To get a good result when you refreeze meat, always use it within 3 days after thawing it again and cook it thoroughly before eating.
When beef is frozen, thawed, and cooked, its tenderness may actually increase. Having said that, the longer beef is stored in the freezer, and the more times it is thawed and refrozen, the higher the likelihood that the quality of the meat will degrade. Try freezing beef for shorter periods to avoid any adverse effects.
Refreezing pork leads to meat discoloration. Still, aging the pork before you put it in the freezer the first time could positively affect the meat’s tenderness. Yet, do not expect your pork steak to be very juicy if you have used defrosted meat.
Refreezing Chicken and Poultry
When you refreeze raw meat such as chicken breast, you should expect changes in color and juiciness. Like other meats, chicken can be safely refrozen as long as it was thawed in the refrigerator.
Refreezing Ground Beef
You can refreeze ground beef only if it has been in the refrigerator for less than 3 days. Ideally, however, you will want to get it back into the freezer as quickly as possible when you realize you won’t be using it soon.
Does It Matter How You Thaw Food Before Refreezing?
It does. You should never thaw meat by leaving it on the kitchen counter. Foods left out at temperatures higher than 41° F (5° C) can be spoiled because harmful bacteria grow at these temperatures.
Is It OK If You Purchase Previously Frozen Meat?
Assuming the raw meat was correctly handled before being frozen in the retail store, it will be safe to eat or put in your home freezer.
Also, when you cook raw meat, you can then freeze the leftovers.
Will Frozen Meat Retain Its Flavor and Moisture?
While freezing meat is the ideal way to store it for long periods, freezing and thawing meat will affect its flavor, texture, and moisture content. This will not likely be a major issue in the short term, but the longer meat is frozen, the more its quality will degrade.
Food cells burst when put in the freezer, making them less flavorful. The tissues break down, and the moisture escapes. Yet, the nutritional content will be generally preserved if the meat was adequately frozen.