There are two concerns with refreezing meat. The first
is safety. If the meat has thawed in a refrigerator, then
it’s okay to refreeze. In terms of other methods,
make sure it doesn’t sit in the “danger zone”—40°F–140°F
(4°C–60°C)—for more than two hours.
And if it’s been thawed by other methods, cook it
before refreezing. This is the USDA Food Safety and Inspection
Service’s position. If you do refreeze, the sooner
you do it, the better.
The second concern is about the meat’s quality.
When you think of how meat fibers change on a cellular
level, freezing not only affects the solids in meat cells
but also turns the liquid within the cells into frozen
crystals. As you can imagine, these sharp, angular crystals
can shear a delicate cell wall rather quickly. Then as
the meat thaws, the contents of the cells seep out, creating
that familiar puddle of juices. This leaves the thawed
meat fibers more prone to drying out as they cook.
Freezing food as fast as possible minimizes the loss of
liquid, because when ice crystals form quickly, they remain
very tiny. If the process of freezing and thawing is repeated,
however, greater moisture losses occur and the quality
of the meat lessens.