Can You Refreeze a Thawed Turkey: A Chilling Question

July 17, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Yes, you can refreeze a thawed turkey as long as it has been defrosted properly.

As a professional chef, I have been trained in food safety extensively. So, if you want to know can you refreeze a thawed turkey, then you have come to the right place!

Discover your answer right here!

can you refreeze a thawed turkey

Is It Possible to Refreeze a Thawed Turkey?

You can refreeze a thawed cooked or uncooked turkey as long as it was defrosted safely.

The main thing to consider when you refreeze turkey is whether or not it was thawed properly. If the turkey thawed safely in the refrigerator, then it should be safe to freeze again, even with a fully thawed turkey.

If the turkey was kept out on the countertop for longer than two hours or for the entire time that it was defrosting, then it is not safe to be frozen again.

The same goes for the cold water thawing technique. While this is still safer than keeping the turkey on the counter, bacteria growth can still have set in.

Therefore, if you are wondering:

Can you thaw a turkey twice?

The answer is yes, depending on the thawing process.

Can You Refreeze a Partially Thawed Turkey?

Yes, you can refreeze a partially thawed turkey. Once again, though, this does depend on the thawing technique.

If the turkey has been partially defrosted safely, in the refrigerator, then it can be refrozen without an issue.

This is true for cooked turkey meat as well.

In case the turkey has been kept out on the counter for a couple of hours, though, then it shouldn't be refrozen.

Now, technically in this instance, the cold water method may allow you to refreeze a thawed turkey. However, you will have to be certain that the water and the turkey was never above 40°F.

Can I Refreeze a Whole Turkey?

What if you want to refreeze a whole turkey - the good news is that you can refreeze a whole raw turkey or cooked turkey.

The turkey must have been defrosted safely, however.

The thing to keep in mind here is that make sure your freezer is functioning properly and is very cold. This will ensure that the turkey will refreeze in a timely manner and continue to remain safe and fresh.

Cooling Rack with Raw Whole Turkey

Why Can't You Refreeze Thawed Turkey?

There are some instances in which you can't refreeze the thawed turkey.

This is usually because the cooked or uncooked turkey has been thawed improperly.

Technically, there are a few different thawing techniques that you can use to defrost turkey or thaw meat, in general:

The Refrigerator Method

Here, you place the frozen turkey in a container and then keep it in the refrigerator.

The benefit here is that the turkey will remain in a cold environment throughout the process. As a result, there is little to no risk of bacteria growing on the turkey meat.

This is why, if you defrost turkey in the refrigerator, refreezing turkey isn't an issue as there has been no contamination.

The only downside is that this is a lengthy procedure - the turkey will only defrost at a rate of about 4 to 5lbs a day. This means that a whole turkey can take several days to defrost.

Therefore, you need to prepare accordingly and start defrosting the meat ahead of time.

The Cold Water Technique

This is the second safest process.

Here, you take the wrapped turkey (in its original packaging) and place it in a bowl of cold tap water. The water must be cold. This ensures that the chicken remains cold and avoids entering into the danger zone where bacteria can multiply rapidly.

To defrost the turkey faster, you can keep emptying out the water and replacing it with fresh cold water.

Now, while this is a safe way to defrost a frozen turkey, there is no guarantee that a safe temperature is being maintained throughout the process.

After all, once the turkey is defrosted in this way, you have to cook the turkey immediately to ensure that it is safe to consume.

Due to this, I can't tell you that it is safe for you to refreeze turkey after it has been defrosted in this manner.

The Microwave Thawing Technique

My least favorite method of defrosting meat - and the least safest option - is to microwave a frozen turkey.

The reason that I dislike this method so much is because it isn't very useful at all.

Place the turkey in a microwave safe dish and use the defrost feature according to the instructions. Once it is done, odds are that the turkey isn't thawed all the way through.

There will be frozen spots, cold spots, and downright hot spots where you will get cooked meat. Essentially, it be a mess.

To make matters worse, the turkey will be well in the danger zone where bacteria can multiply very quickly. As a result, it will need to be cooked immediately in order to be safe.

Not to mention, refreezing turkey is out of the question.

Does Refreezing Thawed Turkey Impact the Taste or Texture?

It is only natural to wonder if there are any consequences to refreezing turkey after it has been defrosted.

In the case of raw turkey, this isn't going to be much of an issue. However, it is always a good idea not to leave turkey in the freezer for too long as it tastes best when fresh.

The longer that it is left in the freezer, the less great it is going to taste. The texture can be off as well.

Now, in case you are freezing cooked turkey, the results can be a little different. This is because every time you thaw cooked turkey, it can lose a little moisture.

Therefore, there is always the risk that the meat will taste a little dry.

To counteract this, reheat the meat with some kind of moisture like water, broth, or gravy.

Whole Roasted Turkey

How to Safely Refreeze Turkey?

Here are the top tips to follow to safely refreeze your turkey:

Thaw in the Refrigerator

I have already made this point but it is so important that it bears repeating. If you think that there is even a small chance that you may need to refreeze the turkey after it has thawed out, make sure to defrost it in the fridge.

My professional opinion would be to get into the habit of defrosting meat using this method in general. It produces far more satisfactory results as the cooked or raw meat is thawed all the way through.

In turn, you are able to cook the meat more evenly.

Of course, if the turkey has been in the freezer for more than four or five days, I would reconsider refreezing it again. At this point, it would be a lot safer to simply cook it.

Avoid Keeping on the Counter

If you can, avoid keeping the turkey on the countertop at any point. This is for two reasons.

First, when the turkey is left in open air, more airborne bacteria can land on the surface of the meat.

Secondly, on the countertop, the turkey is exposed to a room temperature environment. This increases the chances that the bacteria will multiply quickly, increasing the risk of food poisoning.

If you have to leave out the turkey on the counter at any point, then make sure that it isn't left out for longer than two hours before freezing turkey once more.

If the turkey is left out for several hours, you can't cook it let alone refreeze the meat. It will need to be thrown out as the risk of food poisoning is quite high.

Use Freezer Safe Packaging

As the turkey has already been frozen once, the last thing that you need is for freezer burn to take place. This can ruin the taste and texture of the meat when it is eventually defrosted to be cooked.

This is why I suggest always using freezer safe packaging to wrap the turkey in.

In case you are using a freezer bag or something similar, make sure to squeeze the air out before sealing the bag.

Refreeze Immediately

Last, but certainly not least, refreeze the turkey as soon as you know that it will not be cooked. The quicker that this is done, the safer the meat will be.

It is important for the turkey to refreeze as quickly as possible. Due to this, after the turkey has been placed in the freezer, try to avoid opening the freezer for the next few hours.

This will ensure that the air inside the freezer will not rise, making it easier for the turkey to refreeze more quickly and efficiently.

Raw Turkey with Spices

Related Reading

Wrapping It Up

Well, there you have it - your answer to whether you can refreeze turkey once it has been thawed. Now that you have it, you know how to safely refreeze a turkey.

Remember to follow all the guidelines mentioned in this post. It is the only way to guarantee that your turkey will be safe to refreeze and cook and consume later on.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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