Question - How many times can you freeze and thaw ground meat?
It isn't a safety issue - it's a quality issue. The twice-frozen product will not have the same taste or texture as a once-frozen product. It will be fine as long as it was only thawed for a day or two. Cook it in a way that will cover up the off taste/texture, like in a casserole or sauce.
The definitive answer from our Food Standards Agency is that raw meat can never be safely refrozen once defrosted. It is fine to cook and then freeze the cooked product, But the same rule then applies - only defrost it once. It's a good idea, therefore, to freeze both raw and cooked stuff in portions that you can easily eat.
I recall reading a few months ago in Cooks Illustrated with each freeze/ thaw cycle (of a raw meat) X percentage of moisture is lost from the product during the process, and on each cycle, the quality diminishes significantly. I have found this to be true myself through less than scientific testing.
i've always been told freeze/thaw once. So if I but it fresh at the store, I can freeze raw, then thaw to cook.
But my question is this, after I cook, can I freeze again, say in the case of raw ground meat that i freeze, then thaw and make in to meatballs and cook, can I freeze the extra cooked meatballs safetly??
According to the USDA:
"After thawing in the refrigerator, ground meat and poultry should remain useable for an additional day or two before cooking; red meat, 3 to 5 days. Foods defrosted in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality."
It does not say anything about how often poultry can be refrozen, but personally I would toss it. Really, really not worth the risk of salmonella or other food poisoning, IMO. Or if you really want to try to save it, you could contact them directly:
USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
The Hotline answers consumer food safety questions and provides support for food safety educators / communicators.
1-888-MPHotline / 1-888-674-6854
1-800-256-7072 - TTY