Forecast: Freezing Temperatures

Dear Home Ec 101,

A friend and I were talking earlier today. She is a big fan of doubling casseroles and freezing half for later. I was telling her that I don’t because I usually freeze my meat before cooking it and you can’t refreeze meat. She said that as long as you cook it thoroughly after you take it out of the freezer its fine. I thought that wasn’t the case? So like a casserole with previously frozen meat and veggies can not be frozen and cooked later, right?

What do you think?

~Nervous Nellie

HeatherHeather says:
gcurve1.jpgFreezing does not necessarily kill bacteria. (Some of the weaker thin walled varieties may burst when their water content expands, but that’s nasty to think about so I’ll stop now while I’m ahead.) Freezing, and refrigeration for that matter, slows bacterial growth. At cooler temperatures the bacteria reproduce slowly or not at all. As the foods warm to room temperature the bacteria begins multiplying, rapidly. If the food is heated properly the bacteria will die.

The danger in refreezing raw meat is this. The first time the meat begins to thaw the original population of bacteria begins reproducing. The meat is placed in the freezer where the growth stops, but does not die.

bgrowth2thaw.jpgAs the meat thaws a second time the bacterial population again grows unchecked. As bacterial growth is logarithmic in nature

this gives the population a tremendous head start.

Cooking food properly kills bacteria. As long as the prepared food is handled properly (no cross contamination with raw foods), quickly cooled, properly packaged, and frozen it should be just fine.

Made ahead meals are a fantastic budget saver. With several meals ready to go, there is never the excuse of, “But it’d just be easier to go through the drive through.”

I hope this eases any fears you may have.

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