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Many people opt to store excess mince, or ground meat, in the freezer for later use. While freezing mince is a good way to prevent food wastage, it is important to note that an improper thawing technique can provide a breeding ground for bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, which can make those who eat the mince seriously ill. With a few simple tips for defrosting mince, however, these safety issues can be avoided. Firstly, if possible, leave plenty of time for defrosting mince so that it can be done in the refrigerator. If there is not enough time to thaw frozen mince in the refrigerator, use either the microwave or cold water, but note that mince which has been defrosted using these methods cannot be refrozen.
Perhaps the best tip for defrosting mince is to leave plenty of time for thawing so that it can be done in the refrigerator. As the growth rate of most food bacteria accelerates at temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius), food safety experts agree that slowly thawing mince in a cold environment is safest. Note that this process can take 24 hours or more, and it is thus usually best to begin thawing mince the day before it is needed. When defrosting mince in the refrigerator, always place the wrapped meat in a tray or container with walls to contain any juices that might leak from the packaging.
If there is not enough time for defrosting mince in the refrigerator, experts at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend using the microwave or cold water. To defrost mince in the microwave, place the wrapped meat in a microwave-safe tray and heat on the defrost setting until thawed. Often, meat which is thawed in the microwave develops “hot spots” and may even begin to partially cook as it defrosts. This can create a temperature favorable to bacteria, and consequently the mince should be cooked immediately after microwave defrosting to prevent bacteria growth. It is important to note that mince which has been defrosted in the microwave should never be refrozen.
Using a cold water bath is another acceptable method for defrosting mince quickly. To defrost mince using this technique, seal the frozen meat into a watertight plastic bag and then place it in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water, making sure that the meat is fully submerged. To discourage bacteria growth, it is important that the water remains cold, and it should thus be changed every 30 minutes until the meat is fully thawed. As with the microwave defrosting method, food safety experts advise that mince which has been thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately, and should never be refrozen.
In fact, while you are correct in saying meat thawed using these methods should not be re-frozen, it is also not advisable to re-freeze meat - or indeed most foods - which have been thawed after freezing. This is a basic rule which anyone with a Food Safety Certificate here in the UK will know, and most people responsible for their household's meal preparation are aware of.
Most frozen food, and chilled packaged food suitable for home freezing, states on the label that once thawed it should not be re-frozen.
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