Refreezing defrosted seafood?
Does anyone know if there are actual health dangers if one refreezes seafood that has been labeled as thawed when purchased? Is bacteria essentially refrozen back into the flesh and difficult to kill thereafter? These tough economic times have forced me to look at food in a new way and the definition of what I used to think was "too old" or "bad" has changed since I am not currently working and cannot spend as freely. I think seafood like shrimp and squid can be a good value and an alternative to unhealthier proteins but I cannot always cook it immediately, especially now that I buy in bulk. I am not so concerned with great texture as, alas, I now see this is also a luxury I cannot always afford. I don't want to get sick however!
I thought you should never refreeze anything raw that has been defrosted, especially proteins. That is why insurance pays out if your freezer defrosts all your food in a power out if you have that on your policy.
But you can cook the defrosted items and freeze them. So if you see a bargain that's been defrosted, cook it and freeze the cooked dish.
direct quote from the USDA's Food Safety website:
"Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through defrosting. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion.
If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly."
I've never had a problem. It's not like the thawed fish gets warm enough to become a bacteria farm - it's on ice (one would hope). I freeze in a ziploc and press the air out, so I haven't noticed any trouble with ice crystals, even.
The problem with refreezing is not a health issue, if you wee careful with the material when you defrosted it the first time.
The problem is with flavor and texture. If you think of the cells as being like little plastic bags filled with fluids you could imagine how freezing it and defrosting it expands and contracts the bags. When you buy frozen seafood it is usually frozen so fast that the cells don't break, but when you put it in a home freezer this is bound to happen. That is why home frozen seafood tends to have a flat, mushy flavor.
Freezing the seafood in a sauce helps to mask these problems but it will never have any fresh flavor and the texture wont be great. It also helps to freeze it quickly.
For example if you make some fried scallops and want to freeze them, refrigerate them first until they are cold all the way through. Then place them on a cold cookie sheet a least an inch apart from each other and freeze. In a couple of hours when they are frozen put them in a plastic bag and squeeze as much air out as possible. Wrap in foil, write the contents and date on the foil and place in the freezer. In the food business this is known as IQF, or individually quick frozen and is done at temperatures below zero F, with fans and other techniques to speed the process.
re: Plano Rose
I always ask the fish counter person to get me some that is still frozen, instead of "thawed for my convenience," whatever that is supposed to mean since it only takes a few minutes for seafood to defrost. They always get some "out of the back" for me.
I don't want to buy seafood that has been defrosted and sitting around.
I much prefer to defrost it immediately before I cook it. It tastes better and has a much better texture that way.
I'm also not forced to cook it that day.
You can refreeze it. BUT you should note on your freezer bag that you have done this so you know to eat it quicker than you might otherwise have. Seafood may not smell so nice if you buy/freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw. Lots of time for it to degrade. When you get it from the grocery and you know it was thawed before they sold it (like shrimp or crab legs) ask them to for the item frozen. You can also ask them to bag them in increments (like a pound each). Pop them in a ziplock or whatever and then send them directly to the freeze when you get home.