Freezing does not destroy damaging micro-organisms: they just go dormant. You have to remember this in particular when thawing frozen food.

Many foods (vegetables, prepared cooked foods, commercially-prepared frozen dishes) can be cooked straight from the freezer, without thawing. But some – especially fresh meat (and particularly poultry) and fish – must be thoroughly thawed before cooking, to ensure that the cooking process (which will kill any bacteria) is not inhibited by the presence of ice.

Micro-organisms start multiplying and become seriously active at any temperature above 4.5ºC (40ºF), which is just above normal refrigerator temperature. It is better therefore to thaw food in a refrigerator – but this takes much longer than thawing at room temperature. If you thaw at room temperature, you run the risk of encouraging bacteria – so due care must be taken (for instance by making sure thawed poultry is very thoroughly cooked.)

Another safer alternative is to thaw frozen flood in running cold water. Small items can also be thawed in a microwave, but microwave thawing is a bit hit-and-miss, and by the time the process has penetrated the middle, the outer parts may be cooking. This is fine, however, if you want to cook the food fully immediately after thawing.

Is re-freezing a no-no?

For the reasons given above, as a general rule, if the thawed item has reached a temperature of 4.5ºC (40ºF) or more, then you should not refreeze it without first cooking it.

If in doubt, do not refreeze.

You should never refreeze ice-cream that has melted (instead, put it back in the freezer immediately after serving).

An exception can be made for frozen bread: it can be thawed and refrozen without harm, provided that it has not acquired moulds in the meantime.

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