Did you overestimate how much the guests would eat, or deliberately prepare larger quantities of food? Sometimes leftovers cannot be avoided. The freezer however helps us to reduce food waste, save money when shopping and save time in the kitchen. But can the food survive being moved back into freezing temperatures multiple times? We’ll explain all.

Myth: Freezing twice - just don't do it!

“Don’t refreeze after defrosting.” We often see this warning on frozen foods packaging. But is it really true or are we throwing away food for no reason? The answer to the question of whether defrosted food can be placed in the freezer a second time is: it depends. Key criteria are time and temperatures during the defrosting process; the nature, preparation and quality of the food and for how long in total it has been outside the freezer.

Asleep in the ice: what happens in the freezer?

The fresh sub-zero temperatures in the freezer put our food into a kind of frozen deep sleep. Since only very few germs die in the frost, the germ load of a frozen product is the same as the germ load at the time of freezing. However, over time, the product’s quality deteriorates as fats become rancid or the ice crystals change the structure of the food during freezing and thawing.

Farewell to the deep sleep. This is what happens during defrosting

The moment the temperatures rise, the bacteria and all the rest awaken from their sleep and sometimes multiply rapidly. The higher the temperatures, the faster the reproduction. To slow this down, we therefore recommend gentle defrosting at low refrigerator temperatures and pouring off the defrosted liquid which is contaminated with germs. Room temperatures increase the germ count to an alarming extent. Since microorganisms are both the main cause of food spoilage as well as the direct or indirect trigger of food infections and poisoning, uncontrolled reproduction is sometimes a critical issue.

Be on the safe side – heat kills off germs

Whether it’s cooking raw meat until well done, warming up bread rolls or boiling up frozen dishes, it’s the heat that reliably kills off the tiny miscreants. Foods that are properly heated between freezing and then again afterwards are therefore better suited for repeated freezing. The following applies in particular to perishable foods such as raw meat or fish: do not freeze raw a second time. Meatballs that have been fried through or otherwise cooked food, on the other hand, may go back into the ice. The requirement is that the food was not in the kitchen for too long at room temperature and is perfect in terms of appearance, smell and taste.

In the case of food which cannot be heated, such as cream cake, it is the time outside the freezer that counts above all. Two hours is the absolute upper limit. However, it is best to dispose of ice cream that has defrosted for a longer period. Vegetables and bread, on the other hand, barely pose any health risks, so they can go back into the freezer. The warning label on the packaging is therefore there for safety and is particularly useful for raw or non-heatable products. Food, however, is not spoiled after defrosting. While allowing for their perishability, keeping them outside the freezer for the shortest possible time and providing sufficient heat, the food can be enjoyed without worry even after being frozen and thawed twice.