Food Safety and the Deep Freeze

This emailed question was answered immediately upon receipt, but I’d like to share it with you.

Dear Home Ec 101,

So, I’ve been given a turkey that was in my mom’s freezer. It thawed for a few days in the fridge, now it’s in the oven. As I was figuring out the weight and how long to cook that bad boy, I looked at the date. It was Dec 24, 2004!  Today is Aug 29, 2009! I saw no signs of freezer burn, didn’t smell funny, will it be ok for us to eat tonight? Should I cut it up and use it in casseroles? Is it ok to freeze turkey again in a casserole from a frozen then thawed turkey??
I did some research and some people said even 2-3 years frozen is ok… what about 4.5? HELP!

Nervous in Nevada

Heather says:
Deep freezing keeps food safe, indefinitely. No bacteria are mysteriously multiplying if the food is kept at 0°F. If the turkey was in its original plastic overwrap, with no tears, its quality is probably ok. Freezing guidelines are based on quality. Quality diminishes in frozen food through the loss of moisture; you’ve heard of freeze drying, right? If there are holes in the packaging, that will be the moisture express route. Look the turkey over after thawing, if the skin is leathery or has that freezer burnt, dried out look, it probably won’t be pleasant, but it will be safe.

Also remember, there’s a huge difference between a deep freeze that stays mostly undisturbed and the freezer in a side-by-side or top half of a refrigerator. They just don’t stay as cold as a deep freeze and are not recommended for long term storage. If the outermost layer of turkey is allowed to thaw and refreeze, there is going to be significant deterioration in quality and a chance that bacteria has been able to grow if the turkey had significant thawing during a power outage. In this case, skip the turkey altogether.

Lastly, it is perfectly fine to refreeze meat after it has been thoroughly cooked. It is never a good idea to refreeze raw meat that has been allowed to thaw.

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  1. Melissa on September 17, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    My deep freezer door did not shut all the way last night. I discovered it today. All the food is thawed out but still cold. Can I refreeze or cook then refreeze? It was completly full! I hate to throw it all out!! I appreciate any assistance you can provide me.

  2. Guest on September 1, 2009 at 9:32 am

    We are bringing our little daughter to portagal for one week. we do not want change her food. she is 10 mts. We give her chicken, veg and potatoes mixed up for dinner. We would like to know if we cooked it here and had it vacum packed untill we get there and then put in the freezer taking one tub out each day for her dinner would it be safe for her.

    Thank you

    • F Reecah on April 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      Depends but probably not. Crucial is how far Portugal is from where you live, how long you will be traveling untill you reach your destination in Portugal and wether or not it will be cooled during the trip. Food that is vacuum packed in stores usually are in the cooler OR are dry and/or packed with salt and other preservatives. That’s not good for a 10 months old child.
      Not cooled during the trip is especially risky, maybe even more so with chicken, when given (luke)warm food to a child that has been out of a cooler for a long time.
      And I would also not give her a diet of just chicken. Chicken IS soft and easily digestible, but so is fish, I would at least add that. GL

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