It's inevitable that something will come up to change your dinner plans now and then. That's life, as the saying goes. A common scenario: You put some ground beef or steaks in the refrigerator in the morning to thaw so it was ready to cook when you got home from work. Then, your workday gets derailed, you get pulled into meetings and end up working late. You arrive home hours behind schedule, and the last thing you want to do is broil or grill. Instead, you make a quick sandwich, order in, or nibble on some fruit and forget all about the defrosted meat sitting in the fridge.
This can turn out to be a major waste of money. Good cuts of beef and steak can be costly, and if not cooked, eaten, and stored appropriately, you're throwing your hard-earned dollars into the trash. However, there is no need to throw out the beef in this situation as long as it's been stored safely in the refrigerator the entire time. You can save the meat and keep it for another occasion.
Another common dilemma centers on leftovers. Is it safe to refreeze leftover roast beef, pot roast, casseroles made with ground beef, or those expensive steaks that didn't get eaten to the last bite? The answer is YES, as long as you handle the meat properly from the get-go. Whether you have a lot of leftovers or simply never got around to cooking as you planned, refreezing beef can be a great way to extend your food budget.
Refreezing Raw Beef
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, if food has been thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to freeze it again without cooking it. You might end up losing some of the meat's flavor because of decreased moisture, but it will be perfectly safe to eat, and a good marinade can often make up for lost juices and flavoring. Whether you are dealing with beef roasts, steaks or ground beef, your meat can be safely refrozen as long as it is returned to the freezer within 48 hours of thawing.
Refreezing Cooked Beef
If you have leftover cooked ground beef, roast beef, or steak, it can be safely frozen, too. As with thawed raw beef of any kind, make sure it is back in the freezer within 48 hours of the original cooking time.
When You Can't Refreeze Beef
The only time beef can't be safely refrozen is if you left the steaks or beef cuts out at room temperature for more than two hours or just one hour if the temperature is higher than 90 degrees, such as during an outdoor barbecue. The heightened temperatures make the beef susceptible to different kinds of harmful bacteria and can't be consumed safely, even if frozen.
Never thaw meat at room temperature, such as on the kitchen counter or next to the grill outside. Only meat that has been thoroughly thawed in a controlled refrigerator is safe for consumption.