It's happened to just about everyone. You've thawed frozen hamburger in the refrigerator, but you realize you aren't going to be able to use it as you planned. The question is, is it safe to simply refreeze the hamburger or is that an invitation for food poisoning. Is the best choice just to cook the hamburger and then refreeze the dish or burger?
If you thawed your hamburger in the refrigerator and it's only been in there for a short time (three days or less), it's perfectly OK to refreeze it, according to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
If you've frozen the hamburger, then thawed it, then refroze it and thawed it again, you might find texture changes in the hamburger. It loses moisture at each step. You may or may not notice the difference.
Freezing Cooked Hamburger
If you've cooked too many hamburger patties or cooked hamburger to add to a dish but couldn't finish preparing it, you can freeze the cooked hamburger. It's best to cook it completely rather than partially to ensure any bacteria have been killed. The frozen, cooked hamburger might have a different consistency when it's thawed, but you will still be able to eat it. It should be good for up to four months in the freezer.
You can also freeze cooked food that contains fully cooked hamburger, such as in a casserole, so long as it was refrigerated within two hours of cooking.
When Refreezing Hamburger Is Unsafe
Only refreeze hamburger if you have thawed it in the refrigerator and kept it in the refrigerator. Don't refreeze it if you simply left it out at room temperature to thaw. Even if you used one of the other two safe thawing methods, in cold water or the microwave, it might not be wise to refreeze the thawed hamburger. Both of those methods allow some time for bacteria to begin to multiply on areas of the hamburger that have warmed above refrigerator temperature.
Don't refreeze hamburger that has been left outside of the refrigerator for longer than two hours at room temperature or for an hour at a temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In that case, bacteria will have had a chance to multiply, and it could result in food-borne illness.
What Is in Hamburger That Could Make You Sick?
Most hamburger you buy in a grocery store has been ground from cuts of meat coming from many individual steers rather than ground from a slab of meat from one animal. At each step, there is a risk that bacteria have been included. Plus, the hamburger has much more surface area that can be contaminated with bacteria compared with whole cuts of meat. As a result, even hamburger that has been handled properly is inherently more risky than whole cuts of meat.