Nothing is more frustrating than when good meat goes bad. You drop a pretty penny on some finely cut steaks, only to throw it in the freezer when you don't use it on time. You thaw it the night before you feel sure you'll use it, and get an invitation to get dine with some friends. Can you throw it back in, or is it too late? Many people just don't know the rules and boundaries with freezing steaks, so we'll enlighten you.
Is Re-Freezing Unsafe?
Theoretically, refreezing that steak a few times is completely safe. In the best of circumstances, throwing it right back in the freezer won't affect the beef health-wise, although there are certain things to consider before you toss it back in. We'll go into the circumstantial things to consider for safety in just a bit, but first – we'll fill you in on what you can expect when you re-freeze the meat, and why many people just don't do it.
Re-Freezing Steak Will Alter Taste and Texture
Re-freezing steak is more of a question of taste and texture than anything else. Simply stated, the drastic change in temperature in going from frozen to thawed is always going to alter the quality of the meat as far as consumption. It'll become tough, chewy, and a little more bland, so you'll want to consider what you're using it for before you toss it back in the freezer. If you're planning on grilling it and eating it with a side of potatoes, it's probably best just to eat when it's been fresh or thawed once. If you're planning on tossing it in with a pot of soup, or cutting it up and adding to some eggs or a salad... toss it back in, you won't really notice enough of a difference for it to matter.
When You Shouldn't Do it
Getting back to what you should consider in order to determine if re-freezing the meat is safe: how long (total) has it been sitting in temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit? This total hour count is from the time the meat is butchered to the time it's sitting on your countertop thawed, even if there's been some freezing in between. In other words, if the butcher wraps it up after an hour and sticks it in the freezer, you'll count that hour; if you buy it and take it home to freeze it, you'll count the time it was in transit. If you let it sit at room temperature to thaw for a few hours, you'll count that time as well.
Anything over 4-5 hours at the aforementioned temperature is a risk for health and safety, so should always be considered before re-freezing. In other words, refreezing thawed meat that has been exposed to warmer temperatures for a longer period of time won't help the meat recover from any sort of potential dangerous bacteria. Bear that in mind when you continue to thaw and re-freeze your meat!
All in all – it's probably not a huge deal as far as health goes to throw the beef back in the freezer, but you will notice a huge difference taste-wise.