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It can be so easy to forget about the tub of ice cream you pulled out for the backyard barbecue, and only find it later on when it is a melted mess. It seems like such a waste to throw the whole tub away, so you might try to stick it back in the freezer.
Can you refreeze melted ice cream? While you can technically refreeze melted ice cream, you really shouldn’t. Ice cream is one of the few foods that you should never refreeze. As it is made from dairy and sometimes egg, the risk of contracting listeria and other bacteria is too high!
Not only is it a food safety concern, but the ice cream will just not have the same taste and texture once thawed and refrozen.
It is best to just keep an eye on the ice cream you are serving to ensure that it does not melt or to just throw away ice cream that has melted. However, there are some exceptions, so read on to find out how, and if, you can ever refreeze ice cream.
3 Reasons Why You Should Not Refreeze Melted Ice Cream
It really is not worth attempting to refreeze ice cream that has already melted fully. There are too many risks involved, and the taste and quality of the ice cream will be so much worse.
Here are the three main reasons why you should never refreeze melted ice cream:
1. It Is Unsafe
Ice cream is a dairy product, and can sometimes include egg. If left at room temperature or in a warm environment for an extended period, there is a good chance that harmful bacteria will begin to grow.
As ice cream is initially frozen, it can take time for this process to happen, but it will definitely happen if the ice cream is left out in the sun for a good few hours, or left out at room temperature for too long.
One of the main concerns is listeria, which can lead to serious food poisoning.
2. The Texture Changes
When ice cream is frozen for the first time, ice crystals form which are uniform and super tiny. Once the ice cream is refrozen after melting, larger ice crystals form, and this leads to a very grainy texture which is pretty unpleasant to eat.
The ice cream will be more like very fine crushed ice, instead of creamy, rich ice cream.
3. Loss Of Air
Air is whipped into ice cream when it is made, through the churning process. This gives the ice cream a light, creamy texture.
As ice cream melts, the air which has been whipped into it is lost, so refreezing the ice cream turns it into a dense block, and it will need to be re-churned to get the air back.
Can I Refreeze Ice Cream That Is Partially Thawed?
If ice cream has been left out, but in a cool environment, and has not melted completely, it is fine to refreeze. It is important to make sure that there are still ice crystals in the ice cream, or that it is still partially frozen.
This ensures that the texture will not change too much when it is refrozen and that too much air has not been lost. You might notice a bit of a change in texture and lightness of the ice cream, but it won’t be as much as if the ice cream has melted completely and then been refrozen.
There is also less of a chance of bacteria growth if the ice cream has been kept cold, as bacteria, and especially worrying listeria, only grow rapidly at room temperature or warmer.
You will need to use your own discretion as to whether or not the ice cream has defrosted too much in order to be refrozen, but it is best to always be extra cautious.
If in doubt, rather just throw it out and purchase a new tub! It isn’t worth becoming ill and having ice cream that just does not taste right!
Can I Refreeze Ice Cream Left Out Overnight?
You should not let ice cream to sit out of the freezer or fridge overnight, no matter how cool the climate is!
Bacteria can grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice cream should not be left out at these temperatures for longer than 2 hours.
When serving ice cream, only leave it out for under 2 hours, and then place it back into the freezer if it hasn’t defrosted fully. This goes for homemade ice cream too!
You might be able to get away with refreezing ice cream that has been left in the fridge overnight, but once again you will have to check how much it has defrosted by the time morning comes.
Ice cream melts quite quickly at room temperature and does not need to be left out all night to melt completely. The mix of milk, sugar, and other liquids in ice cream is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria at warmer temperatures.
This gets even worse if you have been scooping ice cream out of the tub using a spoon that isn’t completely clean. You are introducing bacteria into the ice cream that will just keep multiplying!
Can You Eat Melted Then Refrozen Ice Cream?
You can eat melted and refrozen ice cream, but you really shouldn’t. It isn’t worth the risk of the potential listeria or food poisoning that you might get, and it is best to just avoid it altogether.
Not only are you risking food poisoning, but the texture, taste, and quality of the ice cream just aren’t worth the risk either, and it will be pretty disappointing. Rather just take a scoop out of properly frozen ice cream, and place it straight back in the freezer.
This way you do not risk the ice cream melting, and then having to risk refreezing it, and it ensures your ice cream will have the best quality when you go back for seconds!
How Do You Tell If Ice Cream Has Melted And Refrozen?
If you are unsure whether ice cream has been melted and refrozen, you can look at the texture of the ice cream. If it is quite grainy, with lots of ice crystals, and if the ice cream is dense and not airy, then you can be sure that it has been refrozen.
Ice cream which has been stored too long will also have ice crystals on the surface, and the ice cream will lose its creamy texture.
So whether the ice cream is dense and grainy from being old, or from being melted and refrozen, you should just not eat it either way.
How Do You Tell If Ice Cream Has Gone Bad?
It can be difficult to tell whether frozen food has gone bad, but there are some ways to tell whether ice cream has gone off.
Ice cream which has been left for too long in the freezer will develop ice crystals on the surface, and have a very grainy texture. It will lose its creamy, rich consistency as well.
You can also have a smell of the ice cream – if it has an off odor or an odd flavor, you should throw it away immediately.
It is easier to pick up on off smells and tastes when the ice cream defrosts slightly, so if you are unsure, leave it out to soften before having a smell or taste.
How long does unopened ice cream last in the freezer?
If left in the original packaging, unopened, ice cream can last for up to 12 months. It needs to be kept at a constant temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
How long the ice cream will last does depend on storage conditions, so the better it is stored, the longer it will last.
Can I eat ice cream past the expiration date?
Yes, it is usually fine to eat ice cream past its expiration date if there are no signs of spoiling. The ice cream package should have a best by date, a best before date, or best used by date, but these do not usually indicate a safety date.
These dates are an estimate of when the quality of the ice cream will be best, and that the quality will begin to decline after this time. It does not necessarily mean that the ice cream will spoil after this time.
How long can ice cream stay out of the freezer?
Ice cream should not be left out of the freezer for longer than two hours. If it has been left out for longer than this, it should be thrown away.
Refreezing Ice Cream
You should not attempt to refreeze ice cream if it has thawed or melted thoroughly.
There is a high risk of bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses such as listeria. The ice cream will also become grainy and lose its creamy texture.
It is fine to refreeze ice cream if it is only partially thawed, but use your discretion to judge whether or not you think the ice cream will be fine to refreeze!
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