How dangerous is it to refreeze meat that has been thawed?
I've often been told by people that I shouldn't refreeze meat (particularly hamburger meat) once it has been thawed. However, this seems a little silly to me. I can't imagine how meat that hasn't been bought fresh and local could find its way to my kitchen with out thawing and being refrozen a couple of times. How much damage can one more thawing and refreezing really do? Can it really be that dangerous disease wise? Or is this just one of those urban myths?
http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/2642/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-temperature-and-food-safety has more about food and temperature safety.
I know this is an old question, but I just wanted to let you know that it helped me. We were affected by Sandy -- our power was out for two days. We had frozen bottles of water in our stand-alone freezer to keep it cold, and didn't open it. When our power came back, the freezer's temperature display said it was only 34 degrees inside. So I know that my meat is safe, but could lose some texture. One of the reasons I love this site!
In theory you could thaw and refreeze as many times as you like, though the changes in temperature would definitely alter the quality of the meat's taste and texture.
What matters most is how long the meat has been in the so-called "danger zone" speaking from a temperature perspective. The "danger zone" is defined as being between 41 to 135 °F (5 to 57 °C).
Here is an excerpt from The Professional Chef, by the Culinary Institute of America:
Foods left in the danger zone for a period longer than four hours are considered adulterated. Additionally, one should be fully aware that the four-hour period is cumulative, meaning that the meter starts running again every time the food enters the danger zone. Therefore, once the four-hour period has been exceeded, heating, cooling, or any other cooking method cannot recover foods.
Except then meats are adulterated from the moment you buy them in the grocery store. They spend a full eight hour day - sometimes much longer - sitting in the cooler. They aren't frozen then, they're in the danger zone! According to that, meat from the grocery store is already spoiled from the moment you buy it.
The cooler at the grocery store should be around 30°F. If its above 40, you should call your local health department.
It isn't an enclosed cooler. At every grocery store I've ever been in has been the same. Open topped cooler for the meat and the contained meat is clearly nowhere near being frozen. The cooler may be set to 30 degrees F, but I doubt the meat is below 40 degrees F.