How safe is it to freeze and refreeze meat?

Learn more about proper meat storage so you can avoid contaminating your food with harmful bacteria.

Raw meat in cooler at grocery store.

There is a big sale on meat this week, and you need to fill your freezer. As you pick it up at the store, you notice it has already been frozen but appears to be partially thawed. To determine if the meat has been previously frozen, look for ice crystals, frost or touch it to see if it is still partially frozen. When you notice any of those signs, the big question to ask is if it safe to re-freeze the meat after it has already been frozen before?

The answer is yes, you can refreeze meat if it has been frozen, but it must be handled properly. An example of proper handling is thawing the meat in a refrigerator. In a supermarket, meat is kept in a cooler or a cooler case. Meat should never be thawed on a counter where harmful bacteria can grow and contaminate the meat. When thawing meat in a refrigerator, check to be sure the refrigerator is at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, the recommended setting for a refrigerator. It will take an extra day or two to thaw, but it is worth it to avoid a foodborne illness. It is not safe to re-freeze foods that have been left out for more than two hours at room temperature or one hour if it is considered hot outside (for example, 90 degrees F).

To prevent foodborne illness, it also important to always cook meat to the proper temperatures before consuming. The proper cooking temperatures are determined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It is also important to know that cooked food that has been frozen can be re-frozen as well. It also should be thawed in a refrigerator. Eat the portion needed and re-freeze within three to four days. Michigan State University Extension recommends following safe practices recommended by the USDA when thawing food. Whether the foods you are thawing are raw or cooked, what matters most is handling it properly.

So, go ahead and save some money by purchasing quantities of meat on sale and freeze, or refreeze, them safely.

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