Question: I thawed some frozen steaks for dinner tonight, but now I’ve had a change in plans and don’t have time to cook them. Is it okay if I refreeze them?
Answer: It depends on how you thawed the steak.
It’s fine to refreeze steaks — as long as you thawed them in the refrigerator and kept them there for no more than three to five days.
If that was the case, you can put the steaks right back into the freezer, says the United States Department of Agriculture. When you eventually thaw the steaks a second time, you may notice a decrease in quality, but they’ll certainly be safe to eat, says the USDA.
If, on the other hand, you thawed the steaks in the microwave or in cold water, the USDA advises that you should cook them immediately before freezing. That’s because with either method, the steaks could have at least temporarily warmed up to a temperature higher than 40°F. At that point, harmful bacteria can begin to multiply and only further cooking will destroy it; simply refreezing the steaks won’t do the trick.
Finally, if you thawed the steaks on the counter or in hot water, you shouldn’t eat them at all. The USDA cautions that it’s dangerous to eat any meat or poultry that’s been thawed under those two methods, as the outer layer of the food would have been allowed to sit between the bacteria-breeding temperatures of 40° F and 140° F for far too long to be safe.