Can You Refreeze Meat Thawed at Room Temperature? (Quick Facts)

Can You Refreeze Meat Thawed at Room Temperature

Thawing at room temperature is the easiest way to go. But it is not the best and recommended thawing technique.

The main problem is the potential bacterial contamination especially when the meat is thawed for too long.

Can you refreeze meat thawed at room temperature?

According to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the meat that is thawed at room temperature should not be refrozen especially if the meat was left outside longer than 2 hours.

The main reason for this is that the room temperature is perfect for the bacteria in the meat to multiply pretty quickly.

Bacterial contamination can detriment the quality of the meat. Refreezing it will not help. It will only restrain the bacterial growth but it is already contaminated.

Why is it bad to thaw and refreeze meat?

Refreezing a thawed meat at room temperature is not recommended. And there is a good reason why.

The rule of thumb says that you should not leave the meat for more than 2 hours at room temperature.

Such span of time will be more than enough for the bacteria to grow making the meat unhealthy to eat.

Refreezing will not solve the issue. Remember that the meat is already contaminated. Refreezing will only somehow slow down the bacterial growth but they are still there in the meat.

The meat remains unhealthy to eat even you cook it. Plus, the expected taste and texture are also not there.

What happens if you refreeze meat thawed at room temperature?

There will be not much to happen if you refreeze meat thawed at room temperature. The only issue is that the meat’s quality will be compromised.

As mentioned, when you thaw meat at room temperature, airborne and the existing bacteria in the meat can multiply rapidly.

This can be even worse in hot environment. The higher the temperature in the room, the quicker the bacteria can grow.

Even you refreeze it after thawing, it will NOT help the meat regains its freshness. The cold temperature can only prevent the bacteria from growing rapidly.

Can meat be thawed on countertop?

You can always thaw meat on a countertop. In fact, in my opinion, it is the easiest way to thaw.

But if you are asking me, I do not recommend it. The reason being is that thawing this way is not safe.

Once you forget the meat on the countertop for too long (most people do), the meat will not be safe to consume anymore.

The meat should not be left for more than two 2 hours to prevent the bacteria from growing rapidly.

If in some reason you forgot the meat on the countertop for 2-3 hours, I suggest that you cook it immediately.

NEVER refreeze it hoping that the bacteria will die in the freezer. 

When cooking the thawed meat, make sure that the temperature is high enough to kill the bacteria.

This will ensure that the meat will safe to consume.

Another thing to remember is make sure that your hands are clean when handling the meat during the thawing process.

The bacteria from your hand can also contaminate the meat. So make sure that your hand is “squeaky clean” before you touch the meat.

This is pretty basic safety measure in cooking. But most people often forget it.

What to do with meat thawed at room temperature?

If you thawed meat at room temperature and partially forgot it, do not worry. It happens to most people (including me) too.

The good news is that you have several options. Below are some of them.

1. Cook the meat

The first thing you can do with that meat thawed at room temperature is to cook it.

Make sure that it is exposed to a temperature high enough to kill the bacteria. Grilling and baking are two of the methods I can suggest in this case.

But of course there are making ways you can cook a meat. You can do your however you do it.

2. Preserve the meat using pressure canner

The other way you can do this is to use a pressure canner to preserve the meat. This is a little bit expensive strategy but it really saves the meat from spoilage.

If you want to go on this this route, you can check my recommended pressure canner here (Affiliate Link).

After cooking the meat, it is now safe to freeze (or if there is leftover). You can do so for future use.

The cooked meat is now safe in the freezer.

Can I put defrosted meat back in the fridge?

I do not recommend putting defrosted meat back in the fridge. This is NOT the best and safest idea.

The best thing to do instead is to cook the defrosted meat first before freezing it.

After cooking, make sure to allow the cooked meat to cool down before placing it in the fridge or freezer.

I suggest that you divide the cook meat into potions before popping it in the fridge or freezer.

When you need to defrost and use the cooked meat, just get what you need and leave the rest in the fridge or freezer.

This is a good technique to avoid unnecessary food waste.

Learn more about freezing here.

Is it safe to eat frozen food that has thawed and refrozen?

Technically, there is no problem with food that is previously thawed and refrozen. It all depends on how the food was handles during the thawing process.

The problem is that when the food is being thawed at room temperature, it opens itself to airborne pathogens and bacteria.

Once the food is at room temperature (especially when the temperature is high), it is prone to bacterial contamination.

When the bacteria were able to grow rapidly, the food will not be safe even if it is refrozen. This is because the bacteria still live in the food while in the freezer.

Another thing to consider is the quality of the food. Thawing and freezing several times will definitely negatively affect the overall quality of the food.

So my recommendation is that once the food is thawed, it should be consumed immediately.

How many times can you refreeze raw meat?

Freezing meat is the best way to preserve its quality over a long period of time. However, this does not mean that you can refreeze raw meat over and over again.

Once frozen and thawed at room temperature, you cannot refreeze raw meat. You can only place it back in the freezer if it is cooked.

Once cooked, you can freeze it once cool down. This is the safest way to preserve the meat for future consumption.

However, if the frozen meat is thawed in the fridge, you can refreeze it and thaw it in the fridge several times. It will be fine because the meat has not been exposed to a temperature suitable for bacterial growth.

In other words, the thawing process determines whether or not the meat can be refrozen after.

But the best thing you can do is to cook the meat once thawed either in the fridge or at room temperature.

This is the best way to enjoy the meat when it is in its best texture and flavor. Remember that freezing and thawing over and over again will negatively affect the overall quality of the meat.

Final Thoughts

Freezing and thawing are two common processes that go hand in hand. Frozen food should be thawed first (in most cases) before it can be cooked.

But is it possible to reverse the process? Can you refreeze meat thawed at room temperature?

The food that is thawed at room temperature should not be refrozen. Simply because thawing outside the fridge puts the meat in danger of bacterial contamination making the meat not safe to refreeze.

If freezing is the only option to preserve the meat, make sure you cook it first before popping it back in the freezer.


USDA: Food Safety and Inspection Service