The Safe Way to Defrost and Refreeze Meats

There’s a wide range of information (and rumors) on best defrosting and refreezing practices. Here are some solid tips on keeping your food health-safe and still tasting good.

Breaking the Ice

Defrosting uncooked food (especially proteins) can be done a couple of ways.

1) Remove the meat or fish from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator until it thaws. Once it’s thawed, you’ll need to cook it.

If it’s only partially thawed, meaning, if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, you may refreeze it safely. Anytime you are freezing, defrosting, microwaving, or cooking food, its molecular composition alters. In this case, refreezing partially-thawed protein may affect the taste, but it will still be safe to eat.

2) Instead of leaving food in the fridge to defrost, you can place it in a plastic bag and run cold water over it. This method is thought to keep the product’s best flavor.

Water conducts heat faster than air, so this is also a speedier process. The only thing is, once the protein is defrosted, you have to cook it right away.

NEVER Defrost Meat, Poultry, or Seafood on the Counter at Room Temperature. Also, don’t defrost by running the food under warm or hot water.

Ms. Hanes, a registered dietician with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Inspection Service, offers that warning. Bacteria can set in and grow rapidly on food where there’s warmth. Once the food is thawed, bacteria can start to multiply within minutes if it’s set out. Even in the fridge, once thawed, a protein will not last more than a day or two, tops. If there’s an odd smell or off-color, don’t even bother to cook it. Toss it.

What You Can Refreeze

As covered, you can refreeze raw meats as long as they haven’t completely thawed. If in doubt, cook it.

-You can also freeze any meats after they are cooked. However, frozen, already-cooked food should only be thawed once, when you’re ready to immediately reheat and eat.

-You can freeze vegetables, fruit, bagels, cakes, and other processed foods. You can also refreeze them safely. The only thing is that their texture and flavor changes every time they semi-thaw and then get refrozen. After a while, it might not be too appetizing.

Hold it, Freeze!

If you’ve bought something like shrimp that was frozen but then was partially thawed at the grocer’s, don’t refreeze it. That would be a double freeze, and although safe, it’s not going to taste very good.

Of course buying and using fresh foods will be your most delicious and safe way to eat. But understanding how to handle food safely will keep food poisoning at bay. Next time, don’t get cold feet; refreeze if you have to, as long it wasn’t raw and warm first.

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