Raise your hand if you’ve ever thawed frozen food only to realize you wouldn’t be able to use all of it at once. Keep your hand high if you’ve ever finished thawing frozen food only to find out you wouldn’t have time to cook at all that night. If this sounds like something you’ve experienced — or that you’re experiencing right now — it’s time for a refresher on refreezing food.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food that has been thawed in the refrigerator is safe to refreeze without cooking. While you may have heard that it’s dangerous to refreeze raw foods (such as meat, poultry, or seafood), Tina Hanes, a registered dietitian for the USDA, told The New York Times that this is a myth. “It’s one of the most popular questions we get on our hotline,” she said. “But it is safe to refreeze raw meat, as long as it’s not spoiled.”
It’s also important that any food you want to refreeze has been stored inside of the refrigerator and hasn’t been left out of it for too long. Any foods that have been outside of the fridge for more than two hours should not be refrozen — and the rule is one hour for places with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the fridge is the only place you should be thawing your frozen food, you also want to keep a close eye on how long your meal stays in there. Experts warn that previously frozen food risks spoiling if it remains refrigerated for too long.
A good rule of thumb is to always double-check the thawing time for any food you want to cook, especially if you’ve never used it before in your kitchen. But generally, you should be OK with refreezing most previously frozen foods, as long as they’ve been handled and stored properly before they finally end up on your stovetop or in your oven.
Word to the wise: It’s good to keep in mind that just because something is safe to eat doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s delicious to eat (hello, sprouted garlic). It’s possible that refrozen food may have a loss of quality because of the moisture lost during the thawing period. It’s all the more reason to only thaw food when you’re pretty darn sure you’ll be able to cook it in time. It pays to be prepared!