can i refreeze beef after thawing

Refrigerator-thawed, raw or cooked meat is safe to refreeze, though the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns the meat may lose some quality due to moisture loss. You should not refreeze foods that have been outside of the fridge for more than two hours – or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees.

Is it safe to refreeze thawed meat? Can you do it again and again? These are the questions I often ask myself as I continue on my journey as a questionable home cook.

This week I’m looking into whether my practice of shuttling portions of meat back and forth between the freezer and the counter is safe. Also in this issue: the worst home products we tested last year, and do you really need to fill your humidifiers with distilled water?

To be clear, it’s never my intention to thaw and refreeze meat again and again, like I’m stuck in some Food Network version of “Groundhog Day.”

But it’s what often ends up happening anyway. Most of the time it’s because I’ve forgotten to separate the ground pork I bought into smaller portions, and I have to refreeze the remnants I didn’t cook.

I’m certainly not a stranger to yoyo-ing meat in and out of the freezer, though it’s only recently that I’ve begun to wonder if this is all safe.

Well, is it? It’s safe to defrost and refreeze meat again and again, provided you do it properly. However, what will begin to happen with repeated freezing and thawing is that the meat will become dryer and less tasty, says Donald W. Schaffner, PhD, an extension specialist in food science and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

But before we jump into that, let’s talk about what we mean by thawing the meat properly. It’s important that food be kept at a safe temperature while thawing. If the food becomes warmer than 40° F, bacteria may begin to proliferate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So don’t do what I’ve done before, which is thaw your food on your counter. You’d be surprised how quickly bacteria like E.coli and salmonella can multiply at room temperature, says Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, an adjunct professor of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University in Virginia.

The safest, most ideal way to thaw food, including meat, is in the fridge, says Amy Keating, a registered dietitian and CR food tester. Check to see if your fridge is set to a temperature of 40° F or lower. As a general guideline, CR recommends setting it to 37° F.

After thawing food in the fridge, you can keep items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, and seafood there for a day or two before cooking, according to the USDA. Red meat cuts, such as beef, pork, or lamb roasts, chops, and steaks can be refrigerated for three to five days.

You can also thaw meat using cold water. Put it in a leakproof package or plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes, the USDA suggests.

Or you can thaw it using the microwave, but if you do so, cook the meat immediately afterward because it may become warmer than 40° F in the process. And that can cause bacteria already present in the meat before freezing to multiply, says the USDA.

A big difference between the methods mentioned above is that food thawed in the fridge can be refrozen without cooking. Food thawed using cold water or the microwave has to be cooked before refreezing to be safe.

Once you’ve made sure you’ve abided by all these safety guidelines, then you should consider the loss of quality. Every time you freeze meat, water turns into ice crystals in the cells, which damages the molecular structures in the product. When the meat is thawed, water is released, and with each cycle, more moisture is lost, says Martin Bucknavage, senior food safety extension associate of Penn State’s department of food science.

The loss of moisture could lead to meat that is less juicy and has poorer texture, says Jacob R. Tuell, PhD, an assistant professor in the school of agricultural science at Northwest Missouri State University. Other potential quality changes include lipid and protein oxidation, which are chemical processes that can cause the meat to smell and taste rancid.

So should people refreeze their meat again and again? Here’s the thing: As I’ve said, if you’re able to thaw and refreeze your meat properly, the main thing you need to worry about is its potential loss of quality over time.

But if we’re being realistic, it’s hard enough to get people to thaw their meat safely one time. So to do it improperly many times just increases the risk of a foodborne pathogen making people sick, says James E. Rogers, PhD, the director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.

His advice? Follow safety guidelines and be aware that every time you thaw food, you’re taking the chance of allowing any bacteria present to multiply and maybe cross-contaminate your kitchen surfaces, James says.

What are some best practices for freezing food? Freezing your food as rapidly as possible prevents large ice crystals from forming and will help you retain the food’s quality better. The best way to do that is to break up large amounts of meat into smaller packs, Martin says.

And if you freeze in smaller portions, you only need to defrost just the amount you need the next time you cook, says Trisha Calvo, CR’s health and food deputy editor, who has been covering food, nutrition, and food safety for over 25 years.

In case you’ve fallen into the habit of defrosting more than you need for a meal, you can try to cook all of it and then freeze the remaining meat. Or you can use the leftovers in other dishes that week, Trisha suggests.

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Apologies in advance for all these products we’re calling out, but here are the worst ones we tested last year.

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Answer: It’s not a must, but it helps. The mist of ultrasonic cool-mist humidifiers can leave a white dust, tiny particles of mineral precipitate, on surfaces. So to prevent that dust from occurring, you can use distilled or filtered water instead of tap water.

Additionally, if there are fewer minerals in your water, there may be less buildup in the humidifier for you to clean, says Misha Kollontai, an engineer who leads the testing of humidifiers at CR.

For tips on how to clean your humidifier and prevent mold from growing, check out our advice here.

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Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.

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Safety will depend on whether the raw product was handled properly before it was frozen, refrozen shortly after it was thawed, cooked to a safe temperature when it is eaten and handled safely if there are any leftovers.

Freezing and Food Safety: Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), United States Department of Agriculture

If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly, according to USDA.

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Ninety-five percent of the people we surveyed who purchased a cooling device, such as an A/C or a fan, said it helped them sleep.

Once you’ve made sure you’ve abided by all these safety guidelines, then you should consider the loss of quality. Every time you freeze meat, water turns into ice crystals in the cells, which damages the molecular structures in the product. When the meat is thawed, water is released, and with each cycle, more moisture is lost, says Martin Bucknavage, senior food safety extension associate of Penn State’s department of food science.

You can also thaw meat using cold water. Put it in a leakproof package or plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes, the USDA suggests.

What are some best practices for freezing food? Freezing your food as rapidly as possible prevents large ice crystals from forming and will help you retain the food’s quality better. The best way to do that is to break up large amounts of meat into smaller packs, Martin says.

Refrigerator-thawed, raw or cooked meat is safe to refreeze, though the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns the meat may lose some quality due to moisture loss. You should not refreeze foods that have been outside of the fridge for more than two hours – or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees.

FAQ

Is it OK to freeze beef twice?

Yes, you can refreeze thawed steak and other cuts of beef if: It has been kept refrigerator-cold — at 40 degrees or colder — for less than the refrigeration times listed above and. It has not been warmer than 40 degrees for more than 2 hours (1 hour in 90+ degree temperatures)

Why can’t you refreeze thawed meat?

The effects of thawing and refreezing meat. Refreezing meat can be done safely, but the quality of the meat may be affected. For example, freezing and thawing meat more than one time might cause color and odor changes, moisture loss, and increased oxidation of its fat and protein ( 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ).

Why should you not refreeze after thawing?

The short answer is no, the flavor and texture will be affected when food is refrozen. Cells within the food expand and often burst when food is frozen. They often become mushy and less flavorful.

Why can’t you refreeze thawed ground beef?

Even if you thawed the meat in cold water or the microwave it is unwise to refreeze it; both methods allow time for bacteria to grow on areas of the meat that have warmed above refrigerator temperature.

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