Can I refreeze foods that are partially or completely thawed?
Good judgment is imperative when determining which foods can or cannot be refrozen because safety is the ultimate factor involved. In general: If foods are thawed but ice crystals are still visible, food may be refrozen. If foods are completely thawed and have warmed above room temperature, foods should NOT be refrozen. Refreeze vegetables ONLY if they contain plenty of ice crystals. Uncooked meat and poultry that contain ice crystals may be refrozen. When cooked, use in casseroles and similar type dishes to mask any flavor changes. Texture will be drier. Seafoods containing many ice crystals should be cooked immediately - NEVER REFREEZE. Fruits and fruit products can usually be refrozen without danger if they still smell and taste good. Fruits are likely to ferment if they have thawed and warmed up above 45 degrees F. This doesn't make them harmful, but ruins their flavor for eating uncooked. They may be used in cooking. Nuts, breads, plain cakes and cookies may safely be refrozen. Refreezing may mean some moisture loss. Creamed foods, puddings and ice cream should all be discarded if they have thawed. Do not refreeze. Quality of foods that are refrozen is affected. Therefore, label these foods and use them quickly.
NOTE: Defrosted low-acid foods - vegetables, shellfish, meat, poultry and precooked dishes - may be spoiled without having a distinct odor. If refrozen and cooked, they could be dangerous. DO NOT try to save such foods.
Barbara Willenberg, Nutritional Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009