Have you ever thawed chicken breasts, with a delicious chicken dinner in mind, only to have a change of plans when it's time to start cooking? Some days it just feels too ambitious to cook a whole meal when you get home from work, or maybe a last minute plan has arisen that sounds too fun to pass up. Whatever the reason, you now have thawed chicken with no immediate plans to cook it. The question is, can you refreeze chicken to use another day?
Go For It!
Generally speaking, you can refreeze chicken, even if it was recently thawed. Freezing food to use for later is a great way to cut down on food waste and save money, not to mention save trips to the grocery store. Nothing is more frustrating than throwing away food, and freezing it is the perfect solution if your plans have changed!
If planning to refreeze your chicken, it's important not to leave it in the fridge for too long beforehand. Food safety guidelines say that you can leave raw chicken in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before you freeze chicken, and cooked chicken can for 3-4 days.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the quality of the meat may be a little worse after thawing and then refreezing, because it will lose moisture during the freezing process. You may find that your frozen chicken has freezer burn, which comes in the form of small ice crystals on frozen food. This may look unappetizing, but it doesn't mean that your chicken has gone bad!
But Be Careful...
However, it's important to be careful when deciding to refreeze chicken, like all raw meat. The bacteria often found on chicken, like Salmonella, can lead to serious illness or even death. Freezing does slow down microbial growth, but it doesn't kill foodborne pathogens. Therefore, even if your chicken is frozen, it can still make you sick if it wasn't handled safely before refreezing.
Because of this, it is only safe to refreeze your chicken if it was thawed safely. For example, if it was left outside of the fridge for longer than 2 hours, or longer than 1 hour in a temperature above 90 °F, it should not be refrozen. You should never defrost chicken at room temperature either, since bacteria can grow on it, causing risk of food poisoning. In this case, you should throw your chicken out and buy fresh chicken rather than using it or refreezing it.
How to Safely Thaw Chicken
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, there are three safe methods to thaw frozen meat. The safest method is refrigeration, in a temperature at or below 40°F. However, this method takes 1-2 days, so this will only work if you plan ahead. Another option is to defrost your chicken in cold water.
In leak-proof packaging, place the chicken in a bowl of cold water, fully submerged. Replace the water every 30 minutes until thawed. Although you may be tempted to use hot water to speed up the process, using cold is the safest way.
The third safe defrosting method is to use the microwave. Using a microwave-safe dish, reheat up your frozen chicken using the defrost setting, rotating occasionally. If you defrost your chicken in cold water or in the microwave, there is still a chance that harmful bacteria will grow, so you should cook the chicken before freezing it. Only refreeze raw chicken if it was thawed in the refrigerator. As long as you use safe thawing methods, you can refreeze your chicken and then cook chicken for a tasty dinner another day!
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This post was originally published on January 15, 2021.