Right now, we’re turning to our freezers more than ever. You can stash meat in the freezer to stock up when there’s a sale, or simply to keep a variety of chicken, beef and pork on hand.
But what happens when you thaw too much meat? Can you refreeze meat safely?
Is It Safe to Refreeze Meat?
You can safely refreeze meat as long as you thawed it in your refrigerator, or any place with temperatures below 42° F. Make sure to refreeze it as soon as possible, or between 2-4 days depending on the type of meat. Before putting it back into the freezer, check to see if there are any strange odors or colors, though.
However, If you thawed the meat on your countertop or microwave, it can’t be refrozen. You can cook the meat, though, and safely freeze it after it’s cool.) Meat left outside of the fridge for more than one to two hours should also be tossed.
Bear in mind that refreezing meat can change its taste and quality. Your best bet is to limit refreezing food if you can help it. This is how long food lasts after you pull it out of the freezer.
What Happens When Meat Is Refrozen?
For starters, there will be a loss of moisture (think back to the liquid at the bottom of the package when you thaw meat—all that is lost moisture). The refreezing process also causes ice crystals to form, which dry the meat out. The more times meat is refrozen, the less juicy and tender it will be. It will be safe to eat, but it may not be as tasty as it would have been originally. However, you can easily liven up refrozen meat with some of our favorite sauces.
How to Refreeze Meat
Your best bet is to refreeze chicken quickly. Return it to the freezer within 1 to 2 days to preserve maximum quality, and place it in a shallow container to help speed up the freezing process. Since refrozen chicken’s texture and taste may be impacted, it thrives best in a dish where it isn’t the main star. Try making saucy chicken enchiladas or a flavorful chicken casserole for the family. Refrozen chicken can last in the freezer between nine and 12 months.
Though pork will be a little drier if you refreeze it, it will still be tasty (we’re big fans of putting it to work on fajita night). When prepping pork to return it to the freezer, place it in a freezer bag and make sure all the air is pressed out to prevent freezer burn. It can last up to two months in the freezer.
Don’t throw away expensive beef steaks and roasts, even after you’ve thawed them. They can be refrozen, and a homemade marinade will mask any change in flavor that occurs during refreezing. Your roasts will last for up to a year in the freezer.
Ground meat can be refrozen if it’s been in the fridge for three days or less. When thawed again, it’s best suited for a satisfying casserole—save burger night for meat that’s freshly purchased. It will last between three and four months in the freezer.