Frozen food can be a saving grace for an overnight meal. After a long work day, sometimes the easiest dinner comes from the depths of the freezer. It’s also the most effective way to preserve hamburgers for next week or just a pack of bacon.
However, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Ground meat at room temperature suddenly becomes tomorrow’s meal, or a cooked frozen meal must be frozen again.
Storing thawed meat is a delicate practice and can make you sick if it is kept out of the refrigerator for too long.
If you’re struggling with how to refreeze meat that’s already thawed, stick to these food safety tips to remember.
Can you refreeze meat after thawing?
Meats thawed, raw, or cooked in the refrigerator are safe to refreeze, although the USDA warns that meat may lose some quality due to moisture loss. Food that has been out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, or one hour at temperatures above 90 degrees, should not be refrozen.
How long can frozen meat keep?
As the USDA warns, leaving meat out of the refrigerator for more than two hours may be unsafe. This is because thawing reactivates microbes such as bacteria, yeast and mold that were present before freezing.
The USDA says that safe thawing can mitigate these risks and that cooking will destroy any microbes. You can safely thaw meat by keeping it in the refrigerator for a day or two or in a plastic bag filled with cold water. You can also defrost meat in the microwave just before cooking.
Storing cooked chicken in the refrigerator:Here’s how long your leftovers will last
Expiration date:What do grocery ‘best by’ ratings really mean?
What other foods can be re-frozen after thawing?
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, thawed vegetables, fruits, and concentrated juice can be safely re-frozen but may lose texture, appearance, and even some flavor. Bread and other bakery products can also be re-frozen, but the process may dry out the product.
Check out the cold food storage chart at FoodSafety.gov for instructions on how to store everything from hamburgers and oysters to soups and stews.
Is it safe to eat frozen foods with ice crystals?
If something has been in the freezer for too long, it can develop into ice crystals known as freezer burn.
While freezer burn sounds unnatural and may be a bit unappetizing, your meat is still safe to eat. The USDA suggests cutting severely burnt parts from the freezer when cooking to ensure the best quality.
Freezer and pantry storage:5 cheap and versatile foods and what to make with them