Can I defrost and refreeze chicken?
I've been told that there are dangers in refreezing defrosted chicken as well as that it changes the taste and texture of the chicken. Is this the case?
I cook for myself but buy bulk - thus I often end up defrosting packs of chicken breasts, for example, in order the get them apart and take out one piece, and then refreezing the rest. I have never had any issues but I would like to know whether this is completely safe and/or whether the culinary quality of the meat gets altered. Also, are there any other issues to be aware of when defrosting and refreezing chicken (or other meat for that matter)?
Yes, you can defrost and refreeze as long as the total time in the "danger zone" of 40-140 F / 4 - 60 C does not exceed 2 hours. This may not be great from a quality point of view, but it is safe.
The USDA says that refreezing is safe only if the meat was thawed in the fridge or cooler section at the market. NOT WHEN IT HAS BEEN THAWED AT ROOM TEMPERATURE! The handling of the meat when thawing is very important. The food from the market has been handled (hopefully) according to USDA food handling guidelines and should be free of any contamination. The key at home is to refreeze quickly after purchase and avoid any cross contamination around the sink/kitchen area. KEEP REFRIGERATED UNTIL REFREEZING!! Also, as a good practice, buy a food saver or equivalent device to vacuum seal what you freeze.
Poultry is one of the danger meats, the others being pork and fish. When you defrost meat, you should not refreeze raw meat after defrosting as a rule, never mind the danger ones. Once a meat is defrosted, cook within 24hours. You can then freeze the cooked meat once it has been properly cooked, but unless you want food poisening, DO NOT REFREEZE. If you have not cooked or consumed the meat within 24hours after it is defrosted, throw it away. It is of no use to you. If you buy in bulk, seperate the meat before you put them into the freezer so as to gain easy access to the meat and be able to choose your portion size when you want it and therefore less food wastage. If you do not have room in your freezer to do this, buy less.
Most of this is factually untrue. There is no such thing as "danger meats"; you can refreeze, it does not contribute to food poisoning (it may degrade the texture and palatability, but that is all).