Is it possible to re-freeze meat: an expert dispels a myth and explains the main rule

Yulia PoteriankoLS Food
Properly thawed foods can be put back in the freezer

One of the main culinary axioms states that a thawed product should not be frozen again. They say it is detrimental to its taste and destroys the texture. Therefore, it is better to throw away what has thawed at the wrong time, no matter how sorry you are for it.

However, as Meredith Carothers, a food safety specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), told Inverse, it's not really that dramatic. Under the right defrosting conditions, foods can be frozen again.

When can food be re-frozen?

According to Carothers, if the thawed product was stored at a temperature not exceeding 5 degrees Celsius, that is, in the refrigerator, it can be put back in the freezer – there will be nothing wrong with that. The fact is that at this temperature, the growth rate of bacteria, including dangerous ones, in the product is slowed down as much as possible, so E. coli or salmonella are unlikely to have time to spoil it. That's why it's recommended to defrost food in the refrigerator – it's both safer and preserves its flavor better.

If this is not possible, then the expert advises to follow the two-hour rule. In two hours from the moment you take the food out of the freezer, bacteria do not have time to grow to a dangerous level. Therefore, such food can go back into the freezer again. This applies to both raw and cooked foods.

In foods that have been thawed longer, bacteria may have time to develop heat-resistant toxins that no amount of heat treatment can destroy. In addition, the microorganisms will multiply so much that repeated freezing will not kill them but only put them to sleep, and after the next defrosting, they will take up their work with renewed vigor.

But what about the taste?

The one thing that is badly affected by repeated freezing is the taste of food. The reason for this is sublimation, a process where the water in the product freezes and evaporates at low temperatures, bypassing the liquid stage. After defrosting, the dish loses some of its juice and, consequently, its flavor. And with each subsequent time, the situation will only get worse.

You can improve the taste of a thawed product by simply adding a little water during cooking. It will be absorbed into the texture of the dish and largely restore its qualities.

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