You can’t refreeze chicken, right? It’s a common Aussie food myth that has been busted by the Food Safety Information Council (FSIC).
“Can you refreeze chicken? is one of the most searched terms that brings people to [our] website,” says Vivien Kite, executive director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.
According to Omnipoll consumer research, 76% of Australians think you can’t refreeze chicken once it is thawed. But it turns out we were all wrong about this – at least when it comes to defrosting chicken in the fridge.
“It has been such a common myth over the years that you can’t refreeze raw chicken or other raw meats that have been safely defrosted in the fridge,” says Cathy Moir, chair of FSIC.
“While it’s absolutely the case that you need to take care with the way you defrost raw chicken, if it has been properly defrosted in the fridge it’s quite safe to refreeze. Minimising food waste is an important objective for our entire community, so it’s important for us to clarify this fact.”
We’ve all been in the situation where we have defrosted more chicken or meat than we may need for dinner. As long as the raw chicken, or any other frozen food, has been safely defrosted in a fridge running at 5°C or below, it is perfectly safe to refreeze it to use at a later date. What you will get is a slight loss in the eating quality of the chicken, so use it up as soon as you can.
“This myth [that you can’t refreeze fridge-defrosted chicken] is more common among older Australians, with 88% of those over 65 thinking this is unsafe compared with 58% of 18 to 24 year olds,” says Moir.
“The survey also found that 83% of respondents correctly said you shouldn’t refreeze if the chicken had been defrosted out of the fridge, on the benchtop at room temperature.
“That is definitely unsafe as food-poisoning bacteria can grow rapidly in these conditions. 93% of those over 65 got this right, although 67% of 18 to 24 year olds thought it fine to refreeze chicken defrosted on the bench.”
You can keep your chicken and other meats safe by following these simple tips:
- Bring them home from shopping in a cooler bag with an ice brick
- Do not wash raw chicken before cooking as this will spread any bacteria throughout your kitchen
- Use the meat within two to three days (or follow manufacturer’s instructions) and store it in leak-proof containers in a fridge with a thermometer to make sure the temperature is at or below 5°C
- If you don’t plan to use your meat or chicken within two to three days, divide large pieces into usable portions and freeze immediately
- Only defrost the necessary amount – the safest way to defrost your chicken or meat is in the fridge at 5°C (for up to 24 hours).
- If you need it urgently, defrost in the microwave using the auto-defrost setting, following any prompts. Cook immediately afterwards.
And if you can’t refreeze, you can always go for leftovers.
“Finally, if you do end up with too much defrosted chicken or meat, you can also cook it, divide any large amounts into small containers and then freeze once it has stopped steaming,” says Moir. “This is a great way to be both food safe and prevent food waste.
“This Australian Food Safety Week, we want Australians to learn more about food safety.”
Test your knowledge and take the food-safety quiz on the Food Safety Information Council website.
Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.
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