If I Thaw Meat & Cook It, Can I Refreeze It?

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline receives thousands of calls each year regarding the safety of frozen foods, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. The issue of refreezing thawed foods can be confusing and largely depends on safe food-handling practices to ensure quality and safety.

Raw chicken breasts on a plate. (Image: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images)

Thawed Cooked Meat

You can refreeze previously frozen and cooked meat, as long as you cooked it to a safe temperature and safely handled the leftovers, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Safety website. Safe handling includes cooling down the food before putting it in the freezer and portioning it into small quantities so the food freezes quickly. Both steps help inhibit bacterial growth.

Thawed Uncooked Meat

You might be surprised to learn that you can also refreeze thawed meat that wasn't cooked. Confusion arises because unsafely thawing meat causes bacteria to multiply, thus increasing the bacterial content with the second thawing. You can refreeze uncooked meat again, as long as it is within 3 to 4 days of defrosting, notes the USDA. You should refreeze uncooked meat only if it was defrosted in a refrigerator, according to the Croghan Meat Market website. Food thawed via other methods, such as in cold water or in a microwave, should be fully cooked before freezing again.

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