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Kitchen Shrink: Is it true that you can only freeze raw meat once and cooked meat once? Why?

Randall, a viewer, asked “The rule had always been, you could freeze raw meat once and cooked meat once.  Is this true and why?”

I think it is a pretty good rule of thumb. However, the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service web site which gives a whole lot of information on the subject, notes a few exceptions to that rule. I list some below.

Why? The reason we need a rule of some sort is because freezing doesn’t actually destroy the bacteria, yeasts, and molds that cause food spoilage and illness, it just prevents their growth. Some, but not all, of the parasites found in food can be killed by freezing but only by very special freezing and thawing techniques. As long as food is kept constantly at 0 degrees F. or lower, it will be safe until thawed. As foods are thawed, microorganisms can begin to grow again.

Sometimes a frozen food will be perfectly safe but it doesn’t look tempting as it’s quality has suffered from freezing. For good quality results it is important to start out with quality products and freeze them quickly while they are very fresh. Then store them at 0 degrees F. or lower and thaw them properly. Although frozen foods can be safely thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave, thawing in the refrigerator preserves the quality best.

Here are some interesting points from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service web site:

“Raw meat and poultry maintain their quality longer (when frozen) than their cooked counterparts because moisture is lost during cooking.”

“Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.”

“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.”

For for lots more information, go to the USDA web site or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

 

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