Can You Refreeze Ice Cream?

by Charlie

Ice cream is a delicious treat that just about everyone will take the time to enjoy on a hot summer day. It comes in all different kinds of flavors and goes good with just about any toppings you can think of! 

Of course, you are supposed to keep ice cream in the freezer but what about refreezing it when you have some leftovers? 

Can you refreeze ice cream? If you leave out your ice cream in someplace cool and there are no signs of melting, it is okay to refreeze it. However, if your ice cream has melted significantly already, it is not a good idea to refreeze it.

You might be wondering about how you can tell when it is or isn’t okay to refreeze it but not to worry, you’ll learn all about the specifics in these next few sections. So read along and find out exactly when it’s okay to refreeze ice and when it’s not!

When Should You Not Refreeze Ice Cream?

Basically, if you see any signs of melting, it is no longer worth it to try and refreeze ice cream. You may be wondering “why not?” and there are a few reasons as to why melted ice cream is no longer refreezable which you can look at below:

  1. Ice cream is made from dairy products, usually, egg and milk specifically. So if it is left out at room temperature for a while, there’s a solid chance that bacteria harmful to you will start growing on it. The bacteria that forms is called listeria and can cause serious food poisoning if too much is ingested. 
  2. When you freeze ice cream the first time, some very tiny ice crystals will appear and are hardly noticeable when eating them. However, if ice cream is refrozen after it has melted, bigger ice crystals will form that give it a rough texture that is not too pleasant to eat.
  3. In the ice cream making process, air is used during the churning step and gives it a creamy, light texture. When ice cream is melted, the air is lost and refreezing it makes it turn into a big block of dense ice. You would have to re-churn the ice cream all over again to get its original texture back. 

When is it Alright to Refreeze Ice Cream?

If you leave your ice cream out in a colder environment and you don’t notice any melting, you should be perfectly fine to refreeze it. You should give it a quick texture test to ensure that there are some small ice crystals in it and that it’s still, at least, mostly frozen.

This test is to make sure that the ice cream’s texture won’t change much when you refreeze it and that there hasn’t been too much air lost. There will, of course, be a little bit of change but it will not be nearly as noticeable as ice cream that was completely melted and refrozen.

If you are still worried about bacteria growth, you should also be okay on this front as listeria only grows at room temperature and hotter. So if the ice cream was left out in a place where it hardly melted at all, it is pretty unlikely any bacteria could grow in that kind of colder environment.

All in all, it is up to you to think about where the line is between refreezable and not-refreezable. Always air on the side of caution though! It’s only a few dollars to get a new tub of ice cream and not getting potential food poisoning is well worth the extra cash. 

Is Leaving Ice Cream Out Overnight Too Long?

You should never leave ice cream out of the freezer or fridge overnight no matter how cold you think your house is! Bacteria can specifically grow between temperatures of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit and if ice cream is left out even in the cooler end of this temperature range, it shouldn’t be out for longer than two hours.

If your ice cream was left in the fridge overnight, it might still be salvageable but you will have to do a pretty thorough check to see if it defrosted too much.

Ice cream can melt very quickly even at cooler room temperatures so unless your thermostat is set at a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit, your ice cream could completely melt in even less than two hours. 

Bacteria love to multiply in warm dairy products like melted ice cream and if you use a spoon that isn’t totally clean to scoop it they can multiply even faster! So be sure not to fall asleep with the ice cream still out or you will be throwing the rest of it away for sure. 

How Can You Tell When Ice Cream Goes Bad?

Frozen food in general can be tough to tell when it has gone bad but there are a few warning signs for ice cream that are noticeable when it goes bad. If it is left in the freezer for a long time, ice cream that has ice crystals on its surface and has a grainy feel to it is probably no good anymore.

Also, you can tell by the smell and taste if ice cream has gone bad or not. Sometimes, it is a good idea to let it thaw for a while before giving it a smell or a small taste test and, if something seems off, it is time to throw away the old ice cream.

Is it Okay to Eat Expired Ice Cream?

If there are not any signs that the ice cream has gone bad it is usually fine to eat ice cream that has gone over its expiration date. There is almost always a “best by” date on the package but ice cream won’t go bad on that date exactly.

The “best by” date is really there just to tell you when the ice cream will be at its best. It may lose some flavor and texture after the expiration date but it should not be spoiled and is safe to eat.

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