July 20, 2010,
B.K. asks from Chicago, IL on July 19, 2010
Refreeze Cooked Food?
I freeze my dinners often. After I defrost them, can I freeze the unused portion again or do I have to dump it?
Edited: How long can it be in the fridge after it's been defrosted (the first time)?
So What Happened?™
Thank you for responding. I got this information from the FDA website (thanks for that suggestion) which helped me also:
Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
M.P. answers from Portland on July 19, 2010
Yes, you can freeze it again if you've been handling the food in a safe way; i.e. it's not been left out for longer than it takes to eat and clear the food away. When food sits at a low temperature for an extended period of time food poisoning can develop.
The reason that it's often suggested to not refreeze food is that refreezing can alter the texture of the food which makes it less palatable but not dangerous. You'll have to experiment to find which foods your family still enjoy once refrozen and thawed.
The reason that the texture can change is that freezing causes cells to expand and in some foods break. Some foods become increasingly more mushy as more cells are frozen.
Later. J.L. is correct in that if the food is not handled in a safe way you are increasing the chance of food poisoning. You do have to refreeze it quickly once it's been heated. No letting it sit on the table while you're doing dishes sort of precaution. You can put it in the refrigerator and then refreeze it after you've done the dishes. The key is to not let it sit at a lukewarm temperature for more that a few minutes. I don't remember how long it is. I'll look it up later. I have refroze foods, usually food that has thawed and that I hadn't used, such as a TV dinner that thawed while I was sidetracked getting it home.
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J.L. answers from Minneapolis on July 19, 2010
Do not refreeze! It is down-right dangerous health-wise. Go to your local university's extension service and I'm certain you'll find the govt' health guidelines concerning food storage, canning and freezing etc.
If you want to stretch meals, the safer thing to do is take a portion of the food right after you finish cooking it either on the stove top or from the oven, and put it in freezer safe dishes while hot, then freeze immediately.
Doing otherwise, you run the risk of introducing bacteria to the food, and freezing it. Consider this; once a meal is served, people breath on their plates, drop food from their fork, and half eaten morsels from their mouth back into the plate thus introducing saliva and the bacteria in it onto their plate. If someone had eaten some of the food from a fork or spoon and used it to stir, cut, or reposition food, they'd have been putting a utinsil with their saliva on it into the food during the meal. The minute food cools off to a certain temperature, regardless if someone slobbered on it or not, bacteria begins to grow. With any of these scenarios, you have thus contaminated the dish. Heaven help you if anyone was carrying a virus for the flu or some other illness...whether they had full blown symptoms or not, you'd be a risk of getting sick too.
Furthermore, very few people know that frozen bacteria can be more virulent than it was before it was frozen when you reheat it. The risk for serious food poisoning is high.
The place where I used to work had a Christmas dinner for employees who had to work the holiday shift. They catered in gourmet hams, goose, duck and roast beef. A buffet was set up and left for people to graze for the afternoon. After several hands had picked through the food, and hours of sitting out on the buffet table, a co-worker asked if anyone minded if he take the remaining ham home. I remember thinking this guy was "crazy" but didn't say anything, and forgot about it until two months later.
No joke, the guy came up to me asking for permission to leave work early because he was too sick to stick around. He kept running back and forth to the bathroom. I asked him what he thought he had, and he mentioned that he had frozen a ham he got during Christmas and defrosted it last night for dinner. I instantly remembered him asking to bring the one from the x-mas party home, and asked him if it was the ham from our company's Christmas buffet. Shocked that I rememberd, he said "yes" and that he wished he hadn't. He went home after that, but eventually wound up going to the ER for dehydration and complications from his "food poisoning" experience.
All I can say is don't do it! Too risky!
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D.F. answers from Boston on July 19, 2010
I am a dumper after it has already been frozen.
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S.S. answers from Chicago on July 20, 2010
Usually try to use the unfrozen portion in something else, perhaps a casserole or an omelette or with tortillas like a taco. Be creative! I don't know if it will hurt you to refreeze (poultry is usually a no no)-just saw another poster who said it would, but really it doesn't taste so good after awhile anyway. Otherwise obviously the best rule of thumb to throw anything out is that fuzzy stuff called mold! If you have good storage a week or so is fine.
F.S. answers from St. Louis on July 19, 2010
I have to agree with Daisey, after it's been defrosted it's got to go. Theres to much risk in the defrosting and refreezing process.