Frozen, refrozen, refreeze: USDA Question Answered

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We all have burning questions we’d like to ask the experts. I went straight to the source for mine. I contacted the USDA for the following question, because I’ve done it for years, but I wanted to make sure I was passing along tips that were safe for your family.

Q to USDA:

Is it safe use cooked chicken (previously frozen) in a recipe and refreeze it, if it were frozen within a 24 hour period?

For example, I make my own shredded cooked chicken. I like to make chicken enchiladas with the chicken already cooked and frozen. Would it be safe to refreeze a casserole with this same chicken?

A from USDA:

Thank you for writing the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long  a food is frozen it will be safe to eat. If you thaw a food safely (in the refrigerator) it is safe to refreeze it because it has always been at a safe temperature, that is, a temperature too cold for bacteria to grow. The only thing affected is the flavor (it may not taste as good) or it could dry out.

In the case of your chicken enchiladas, if the chicken is still frozen when you assemble the enchiladas and freeze them there probably won’t be too much effect on the quality since the chicken won’t thaw before you put it back in the freezer.

Sincerely,
Food Safety and Inspection Service

My tip of the day: Cook your meat or poultry, cool completely and package in convenience form (1-2 cup portions in quart size bags; I add extra broth to my chicken to keep it moist), then prepare two (one for now and one for later)  chicken enchilada casserole or stromboli or calzone on another day and refreeze the meat . Just make sure it gets back as soon as possible to prevent bacteria growth. Bottom line is cooked meat can be refrozen, but keep it at a safe temperature, and don’t let it go over the 2-3 day limit.

Food safety information is also available 24/7, by going to “Ask Karen,” our automated virtual representative at www.askkaren.gov. You may type your food safety question directly into the automated virtual representative feature.

Do you have a burning question to ask the experts? Go ahead and “Ask Karen”. I did.

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