Fresh meat spoils quickly, and freezing it is a common preservation method.
Freezing meat not only helps preserve it, but storing meat at temperatures below 0°F (-18°C) for several days might even help minimize the risk of some foodborne illnesses like toxoplasmosis.
Still, you may wonder whether meat can be frozen more than once.
This article reviews whether it’s safe to refreeze meat.
There might come a time when you thaw frozen meat and then decide not to cook some or any of it.
In this case, it’s safe to refreeze the meat until a later date as long as the meat was thawed and stored properly in the refrigerator the first time it was removed from the freezer.
Although refrigerator thawing is not the only way to thaw meat, it’s the safest way to do so if you think that you might want to refreeze some or all of the meat.
As a general rule of thumb, meat can be refrozen as long as it:
- was stored properly in the refrigerator while it thawed
- was refrozen within 3–4 days
- was not left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours
- did not spend more than 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F (32°C)
Refreezing meat can be done safely, but the quality of the meat may be affected.
For example, freezing and thawing meat more than one time might cause color and odor changes, moisture loss, and increased oxidation of its fat and protein.
Oxidation is a process in which electrons are transferred from one atom to another. When this occurs in meats, it can lead to a significant deterioration in quality.
Any changes to a meat’s ability to retain moisture might also significantly affect the tenderness and juiciness of the meat.
Interestingly, in some cases, chilled storage and freezing meat more than once may have positive effects on these factors.
However, it appears that the type of meat in question, as well as the exact number of freeze-thaw cycles that the meat undergoes, all influence how the meat will respond to being refrozen multiple times.
For example, one study observed how various freeze-thaw combinations affected beef steak cuts. Researchers found that a combination of freezing, thawing, and aging the steaks increased tenderness, compared with fresh steaks that had been aged but not frozen.
In addition, a literature review of research on the effects of cool and frozen storage on red meat found that freezing meats for a shorter period of time might help prevent some of the negative effects that freezing can have on the quality of red meat.
A study of Australian-raised lamb ribs compared how freezing and storing the ribs at various temperatures affected quality markers like juiciness, texture, and shrinkage.
The researchers found that lamb stored at deep-freeze temperatures between -58°F (-50°C) and -112°F (-80°C) remained more tender once thawed, compared with lamb stored at normal freezing temperatures -0.4°F (-18°C).
Pork loin is a commonly eaten cut of meat that comes from the rib cage of a pig.
Two recent studies have examined the effects of freezing and thawing on pork loin specifically.
The first study compared three freezing-thawing sequences on pork loin quality.
Each sequence caused increased discoloration of the meat, but researchers found that aging the pork prior to freezing it could be an effective way to maintain the tenderness of the meat.
A second study suggests that freezing and then thawing pork loin does not significantly affect the tenderness of the meat. On the other hand, the juiciness of the meat might decrease after freezing and thawing it.
A study including 384 supermarket shoppers in Turkey found that the most commonly used thawing techniques for frozen chicken included using the refrigerator, microwave, warm water, tap water, and countertop.
Researchers determined that none of the thawing techniques had a significant effect on the color or texture of the chicken.
However, thawing in the refrigerator or microwave resulted in approximately 18% less shrinkage than the other thawing methods.
Yet, additional research has found that the more times a chicken breast is frozen and thawed, the more likely you are to notice changes in its color and juiciness.
For best results after refreezing meat, you’ll want to fully thaw the meat prior to cooking it.
Here are three different methods you can use to thaw meat safely:
- Refrigerator thawing. Thawing could take anywhere from 1–7 days depending on the size. Once thawed, meats should be cooked within 3 days.
- Cold water thawing. This is a quick thawing method that entails placing the meat in a plastic bag under cool running water. Meats thawed this way should be cooked right away.
- Microwave thawing. Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked right away, as the thawing process might significantly raise the temperature of certain portions of the meat.
Remember, if there’s even a slight chance that you might want to refreeze some or all of the meat before cooking it, make sure to employ refrigerator thawing.
Alternatively, meat thawed under cold water or in the microwave should be cooked right away to ensure safety.
Meat is often frozen to preserve and keep the product safe when it’s not going to be eaten right away.
As long as the meat has been stored properly and thawed slowly in the refrigerator, it can be refrozen safely multiple times.
If done correctly, refreezing meat does not pose any health risks.
Although, depending on the type of meat and how many times it’s refrozen, the quality of the meat could be negatively affected.
Use an approved thawing method, such as thawing in the refrigerator, if you believe that you might want to refreeze all or some of the meat you have thawed.