The Truth About Refreezing Thawed Chicken

Does this scenario sound familiar? You've taken out some chicken to thaw for dinner but when you get home after a long day, ordering pizza and vegging out to Netflix sounds a lot more appealing than standing over a hot stove. Do you throw the chicken back in the freezer for another night or take the loss and toss it in the trash? Thawing and refreezing raw meat is one of those things that can leave people feeling a little uncertain of the best steps to take. While throwing thawed chicken in the trash seems like a waste of money, the risk of getting sick isn't a great option either. 

The determining factor here is really all about how you thawed that chicken — or any other protein for that matter. If you've thawed the chicken in some place that has a temperature of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, such as an iced cooler or refrigerator, you're in the clear, according to the USDA. However, if you're one of those folks who tends to thaw their meat in a plastic bag submerged in cold water — or worse, on the kitchen counter at room temp or in the microwave, you'll need to cook it right away. Do not refreeze it as there's a greater chance of bacterial contamination.

While refreezing chicken that's safely thawed in the refrigerator is better than losing money and discarding it in the garbage, it might lose some quality of taste as well. You'll probably notice that when you finally do get around to cooking that chicken that's been frozen, thawed, and refrozen and thawed, that the texture is a little different. This is because every time you thaw a piece of meat it loses some of those juices and some of its flavor. "So you need to compensate for that," food author Deborah Krasner told Epicurious. "I would marinate the meat in an easy marinade to add more flavor and to add more juice." 

To prove what sort of effect refreezing and thawing meat had on flavor, Cook's Illustrated did a taste test with meat that had been cooked fresh, frozen and thawed, and frozen and thawed twice. Big surprise, tasters preferred the meat that hadn't been frozen at all, and the meat that had only been frozen once tasted better than the twice frozen meat. 

Go ahead and refreeze that chicken if it was thawed in the fridge, just be prepared for some subpar results when you finally do cook it.