How long does re-thawed already cooked food last?

Discussion in 'Food Safety' started by rgautheir20420, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. So my wife and I make a good amount of freezer meals for ourselves. There's something I'd like to confirm regarding the thawing of already cooked food in the fridge and how long it's good for. As an example, let's say I cook a freezer meal on Monday and it's ready that day. That same day, I place the meal in a sealed container and in the fridge for 2 days (Wed). On Wed, I then portion out the leftovers and place them in a freezer bag and into the freezer.

    At this point, they've spent 2 days as leftover, and are now frozen. Here's the real question. Those same meals, are now in the fridge and defrosted. How many days in the fridge are they good for? My understanding of raw meat is that freezing it only stops the "going bad" clock (for a while at least), but it doesn't reset it. Does the same rule apply to already cooked food? Would I now have 2 days (or whatever) left on these meals before they should be deemed as unfit to eat? 

    I've search high and low and haven't seen this topic addressed. If anyone has an answer, I'd love to reading material on it...preferably online.
  2. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    rg when you take them out, you have to bring them back up to safe eating temp. They will be good for a few days, I like to reheat if they are going to sit that way I can get another day out of it.
  3. Well when they are reheated for eating they are usually nuked. What's a safe temp? I've never ever measured the temp of something I was reheating for lunch or dinner. Never considered that a danger seeing as it's been previously cooked. Only worried about how many days they were left in the fridge after being pulled from the freezer.

    Reheating the day you pull them and then re-cooling to put in the fridge is WAY to much effort for another day.
  4. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    When I nuke I don't take the temp the micro wave does the job, I was referring to heating in the oven.
  5. Ah ok. So is it safe to say a total of 5 days for leftovers that are defrosted?
  6. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    rg that would be pushing it. I don't usually have that problem we take it out and cook within a day.Maybe one of the food Police will show up ( Only Kidding  yous do a great job)
  7. Thanks for the notes tropics. I'm just trying to get an idea of what's safe really. What we do it cook the meal one night, it'll usually stay in the fridge for the next or 1 more (2 days total) and then it'll get put in the freezer. Sometimes, the wife will pull something out of the freezer that she plans on eating, but it'll sit in the fridge again for 2 days before she gets to it. I want her and I to understand what is safe to do in these situations.

    Food police are welcome. This is a true learning experience for me and likely others. Seeing as I haven't found information on it.
  8. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Properly frozen and thawed cooked food has the same self life as the cooked food before it was frozen. We assume the cooked food is sterile because it was cooked or heated to or above 130 to 170°F. This is true IF it is eaten right away. But usually we eat then large portions of leftovers are refrigerated. During this time bacteria can and do come in contact with our food. At Refer temps, 36 to 38°F, bacteria growth is slowed but not stopped until the food is frozen. Because the bacteria is there and growing, the storage clock starts ticking. The USDA recommends cooked food be eaten in 4 days or frozen. This is for the typical meal that leftovers will be eaten in 4 days or if frozen after the 4 days, is thawed, heated and eaten right away. A possible scenario of what can happen with the food you describe above: A large pan of Lasagna is baked. It typically will be sitting on the dinner table or kitchen counter for 1 hour as  people eat. It cools and air borne bacteria settle on the exposed surfaces. The pan is now placed in the refer and for some period of time that bacteria multiplies at a normal pace because the food is still above 40°F. It finally gets below 40°F and most bacteria growth slows but it does not stop. If it sits in the refer 2 days there is some continued bacteria growth. Now it is frozen. The bacteria stops multiplying but is not killed, so all that bacteria is waiting for the temp to rise again. You defrost it in the refer, the temp is back to 36 to 38° and all the bacteria that was there starts to grow again. Two more days and you have the same amount of bacteria as if the Lasagna sat in the refer for 4 days straight.

    The goal is to freeze asap to limit bacterial growth, portion what will be eaten in any future meals, defrost in the refer, then heat and eat. When the food is thawed and heated above 165°F, the existing bacteria is killed limiting the risk of getting sick but proper handling from purchase to consumption is still very important. I hope this is what you were looking for...JJ [​IMG]  [​IMG]

    Below are the relevant Safety Fact Sheets from the USDA...
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  9. schlotz

    schlotz Meat Mopper

    Very good advise ^^^.  It sounds like there is a reoccurring theme going on, i.e. difficulty in making a decision. Personally we divide the left overs after the meal, vac seal them and put them into the freezer not the frig. On the back side, we pick what we want for dinner, thaw then and reheat it that evening for dinner.  Again, no extra days in the frig.  Only exception is items requiring long re-thaw periods where morning to night is not enough.  YMMV 
  10. Chef, that's exactly the kind of information I was hoping to get from starting this thread. I hadn't been able to find "official" advise on the adding of days in the refer going from cooked to refer to freezer to refer to reheated. This is very helpful and I hope it helps others in the same way it's helped me.
  11. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    You are welcome....JJ
    floridasteve likes this.
  12. yvonne

    yvonne Newbie

    Nice information by Chef JimmyJ, It answeres many questions that I was going to ask. Thanks agains. 
  13. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Not strictly relevant to the question but to add a little to JJ's excellent information. If you are planning on freezing fresh packaged food (maybe ready-meals because of a store sale) then the important thing is to look at the use by date on the package. When you then freeze the pack it is important to write the date on it that it was actually frozen. The act of freezing (for all practical purposes) effectively puts the food spoilage on hold and so when you later thaw the meal out you then have the number of days between the date it was frozen and the original use by date to safely cook and eat it. In most cases though people will thaw and eat the food on either the same or the next day. This does however make a big assumption that the food was correctly stored prior to you buying it and by you before you actually froze it.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  14. smokin sid

    smokin sid Smoke Blower

    Greetings Wade!

         Thank you for answering a "Freezing By Date"question that has been in the back of my mind for a long time.

    When I go on a meat shopping trip I try to remember to take an ice chest with ice so everything that I buy that

    needs to stay cold ,is nice and cold when I home. Better to be safe than sorry.

    I am so glad I found this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                   Smokin Sid

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