Can you thaw and refreeze meat? 6 food safety myths busted

There are so many divisive opinions around when it comes to food safety and freezing. So what is true and what is just a myth?

You’re encouraged to liberally freeze and thaw foods — a ‘great way to avoid food wastage’ but on the hand, you’re dancing with danger when you thaw and refreeze.

So what is true and what is just an old wives’ tales?

food safety myths

Myth 1: If you thaw meat, you can’t refreeze it.

FALSE. According to the CSIRO, it’s perfectly safe to refreeze defrosted meat or chicken or any frozen food as long as it was defrosted in a fridge running at five degrees C or below. The only thing you may compromise is a bit of taste, as defrosted meat can become slightly watery.

If there’s anything to watch, it’s the pre-freezer ‘steam’. If you cook defrosted meat and refreeze it into a container while hot, you’ll create condensation — which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So wait for the steam to subside before packaging.

Myth 2: You can rinse away bacteria

FALSE. As you would fresh lettuce or fruit, the modern mentality is to wash meat before cooking it. Funnily enough, splashing water on meat actually increases the risk of hazardous bacteria.

As above, meat + liquid + fresh air = bacteria breeding ground. Most meat is cooked at above boiling point, which sees all bacteria destroyed.

food safety myths

Rinsing your meat, particularly chicken, can actually increase the risk of bacteria. Image: iStockSource:istock

Myth 3: All foods are fine to freeze

FALSE. From bread to fruit to meat, there’s a common misconception that any food can be safely stored in the freezer. While most foods are happily frozen, there are some foods that should never be encased in ice. For starters, some sauces and vegetables will simply disintegrate.

But beyond that, freezing temperatures can cause things like coffee, eggs and milk to change their chemical composition and absorb those ‘off’ flavours. It’s best to check food packaging to see what can be safely refrigerated or frozen after opening. And if you’re not sure, don’t do it.

Myth 4: There is no expiry date for frozen food

FALSE. We often put things in the freezer and think time stands still. In a couple of year’s time, we find them, defrost them and eat them as if they’re fresh off the shelf. But food quality deteriorates the longer it’s frozen.

As a general rule: Soups, stews, casseroles, cooked meat: don’t freeze for more than three months. Uncooked steak and poultry: don’t freeze for more than 12 months. And of course, if you find something from yesteryear in your freezer, play it safe and dispose of it.

Myth 5: Give meat the sniff test

FALSE. This myth is right up there with the ‘5 second rule’. Take note: Picking food off the ground quickly or using our nose to determine food safety are not good standards to follow.

While expired food can often attract an ‘off’ aroma, there are also certain bacteria that are unseen and unscented. These hidden harms can pose significant health risks, so if food is out of date, put it out of harm’s way.

food safety myths

Should you follow your nose when it come to food safety? Source:istock

Myth 6: Freezing food puts the freeze on bacteria

FALSE. We know boiling point destroys bacteria, so it makes sense that freezing point does the same, right? Wrong.

Freezing food makes bacteria inactive, but it doesn’t kill them. This means, if you freeze contaminated food, the same contamination will be there if you defrost it. So unless you’re thawing something and blasting it in the oven, the bacteria is still live and well.

Food safety in a nutshell

Food safety doesn’t need to be a complicated dance with danger. Read labels, follow food recommendations and stick to expiry dates. If you’re unsure, always err on the side of caution.

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Can you thaw and refreeze meat? 6 food safety myths busted
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