Can You Refreeze Thawed Meat?

by Charlie

There are all kinds of frozen meats that can be used in just about any dish you can think of. Whether it is beef, steak, fish, or shrimp, they are all delicious ways to make a healthy dinner or even eat them by themselves! 

If you plan on keeping meat around for a while though, you have to keep it frozen until you’re ready to use it.

Can you refreeze thawed meat? Yes – once you thaw it out, meat can be refrozen so long as it is sealed up properly and it was not left out at room temperature for too long. This rule goes the same for just about all frozen meat as well. 

Different meats have some different thawing methods and specifics that go along with them though and we’ll go through all of those in this article. What’s more, you will find out how refreezing meat can sometimes affect its taste and texture. So let’s begin with when it is okay to refreeze thawed meat.

When is it Okay to Refreeze Thawed Meat?

If you thaw meat in your fridge, it is fine to refreeze it without all of it having to be cooked first for about 2-4 days depending on the meat. That is if you leave it in the fridge that whole time, however. If you thaw meat at room temperature, you can only refreeze it if it was out for 2 hours at absolute most. 

Using your fridge to thaw out meat is certainly the safest option but it requires a bit of patience. You should let it thaw out for around a day or two so it gets unfrozen all the way and then you can use however much you need and freeze the rest safely. 

Although, if you don’t have a day or two to thaw out your meat, you can also submerge it in cold water for about 1-3 hours depending on how much meat you’re thawing out. About a pound of meat could take an hour or less while 2-3 pounds will take at least a couple hours.

Be sure to replace the cold water every half hour or so as well or the water will become too cold and at this point the meat is just a large ice cube that will take much longer to thaw out completely. 

Also, if you are really strapped for time, using a microwave to thaw out your beef is perfectly fine as well. This method will only take 8-10 minutes per pound but you should keep your microwave on a low or a specific defrost setting to avoid actually cooking the meat. 

For both the cold water thawing and microwave thawing methods, you should not refreeze your meat afterwards without cooking it first. Both of these methods are good for quick thaws but they are only good if you plan to cook all the beef in one go. 

When is it Not Okay to Refreeze Thawed Meat? 

You should not refreeze thawed meat if you used the cold water or microwave thawing methods talked about above, or, if you left the meat out at room temperature for more than two hours. Plus, it is unsafe to refreeze thawed meat in the fridge if it has been there for more than 4-5 days. 

Harmful bacteria can grow on meat that has been left out in temperatures anywhere from 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit which can cause serious food poisoning. Also, if meat has been left out in anything above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it can become contaminated in an hour or less. 

Refreezing already contaminated meat will not save it, the only place this meat belongs is in the garbage. If you are ever unsure about if meat is safe to eat after refreezing it, you can always give it the smell test or see if there is any discoloration. If any of these signs are present, the meat is no longer usable. 

Does Refreezing Meat Affect Its Flavor?

So let’s say you thaw your meat out in the fridge, refreeze it, and do everything perfectly the right way. Will it make the meat taste different than it would have originally?

The short answer is yes, but here’s exactly why. Thawing and refreezing causes ice crystals to form that damages the meat’s muscle fibers and causes moisture loss. This will make the meat taste more dry and tough but, for those that are worried about their date night, it is really not an enormous difference.

When meat gets frozen initially as it’s sold at the supermarket, this loss of moisture has already happened. Not too much more is going to go away just because you refreeze it one more time but the more times you do it, the more noticeable this change will become. 

Can I Just Not Thaw Meat At All? 

It isn’t necessarily recommended but, yes, you don’t have to thaw the meat whatsoever to cook it. Of course, there are some drawbacks in that it takes almost twice as long to cook and there is a pretty noticeable difference in texture and quality. 

How Can I Tell if Meat Has Gone Bad?

There are different ways to tell for each kind of meat but, in general, here are a few ways to tell if meat has gone bad and can no longer be refrozen:

  1. Smelling the meat is probably the easiest way to tell if it is spoiled. If you’re wondering what it smells like, the honest answer is: you’ll know. The smell is very unpleasant and if this is the case, it does not matter if it has no other warning signs, throw that meat out!
  2. If the meat feels slimy or sticky, it is a telltale sign that it is no good. Usually, this goes hand in hand with bad smell but if the meat seems slimy without it smelling it might be okay to eat but air on the side of caution. 
  3. Seeing any discoloration on the meat is an automatic sign the meat is bad. For pretty much any kind of meat, if you see a greenish-brown color on its surface, it’s spoiled and needs to go.

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