We’ve all taken something out of the freezer to thaw, and then completely forget about it with it sitting on the kitchen countertop for hours just to realize it’s probably no longer safe for consumption. But when is it safe to still salvage your beloved organic free-range hormone-free chicken breast?
What does freezing to do the food?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what happens to your food when it gets frozen. The freezing process ruptures cell walls of any product, which is why refreezing food is even more undesirable. The texture changes, the taste is a little off, and it’s just not fresh. And this is due to the water expansion that occurs when you freeze something.
So imagine refreezing something that has already been thawed. You’re breaking down even more cell walls, and turning the food into what is essentially mush.
When is it safe to refreeze food?
According to the Canada Be food Safe, if there are still ice crystals on your food—mostly raw meat—it is generally safe to refreeze. The issue with thawing at room temperature is that you’re creating the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, which is why it’s advised that you should not refreeze any food that’s been thawing outside of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
The ideal condition for refreezing food is food that is thawed in the refrigerator. Alternatively, cooked food is also generally safe to refreeze, as the cooking process helps with killing bacteria—probably why those turkey leftovers still taste so great even when they’ve been frozen. Just make sure you don’t leave it on the countertop again.
It is important to note that a lot of seafood that’s on display at a grocery store has already been frozen, so while they may be stored at a safe temperature, they would probably taste a lot different if you were to refreeze them again.
Whichever raw protein you prefer, it will still depend on each specific store’s handling process. Make sure you’re buying from a vendor that you trust!
Other foods like vegetables and berries are safe to refreeze, but you can bet that they won’t taste good. As they’re already high in water content, refreezing them would only turn them into a frozen block. But they’re still edible, and would be perfectly fine for jam or smoothies!
Remember, it’s much better to be safe than sorry, and it’s never a good idea to taste-test whether a food is still edible. Let’s be honest, those college days of risking food poisoning are over.
Do you have any tips and tricks to avoiding having to refreeze food in order to reduce food waste?