Frozen, Thawed, Cooked, Frozen Again?

Sure, as long as it was thawed and cooked properly. You might notice a decrease in quality, but the meat should be perfectly safe.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has all sorts of details about freezing, thawing and food safety online or, consumers can call its toll-free hotline at 888-674-6854.

Basically, meat and poultry can be frozen, thawed, cooked, then refrozen — and then thawed and refrozen again if, for some reason, that’s what you need to do. Even foods that have been frozen and thawed in the refrigerator but not cooked can be refrozen safely. The process will somewhat diminish the quality of the end product, because meat loses moisture during thawing (and during cooking). But safety shouldn’t be a concern.

In fact, frozen foods stored at or below 0 degrees will remain safe indefinitely. But again, lengthy freezer storage will affect quality. Still, cooked poultry can be stored in the freezer for up to four months; raw poultry parts can be stored up to nine months; and whole birds can be frozen up to a year before there’s a noticeable effect on quality if handled correctly.

The key to the safety question is to be sure to thaw and cook properly. The easiest way to thaw frozen meat is to put it in the refrigerator. It takes longer, but all you have to do is plan ahead a bit. Small items can thaw overnight; larger pieces may take a full day or two. Turkeys need about one day for each five pounds of weight, so a 20-pounder would take four days to thaw in the refrigerator.

If you thaw meat in the microwave, be sure to cook it immediately, because microwaves tend to thaw foods unevenly and portions of the food may start to cook while others are still in the thawing process.

To thaw meat in cold water, be sure to place it in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag before immersing it in the water. Check the water frequently to make sure it stays cold, and change the water at least every 30 minutes. Again, once the product is thawed, cook the food immediately.

Poultry must be cooked internally to 165  degrees to be safe.

This article is from Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.