Yes, with conditions. If meat is thawed in the refrigerator, it’s safe to refreeze without being cooked first, says the USDA. Any foods left outside the refrigerator for more than two hours or for more than one hour in temperatures higher than 90°F shouldn’t be refrozen. In other words, raw meat, poultry and fish can be refrozen as long as they were thawed safely in the first place. Raw frozen goods are also safe to cook and refreeze, as well as previously frozen cooked foods.
Thawing meat in the refrigerator requires a little foresight. (Imagine knowing what you’re going to eat for dinner two days from now.) But it’s the safest method there is and the only way meat is safe to refreeze. Just move the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator so it can gradually come down to a warmer temperature overnight or within 24 to 48 hours (more if you’re thawing something big, like a whole turkey). Once thawed in the fridge, ground meat, stew meat, poultry and seafood are safe to cook for another day or two. Roasts, chops and steaks of beef, pork or lamb will keep in the fridge for three to five days.
If you need to defrost something but don’t have a whole day to wait, don’t panic. Cold water thawing, meaning the food is in a leak-proof package or bag submerged in cold water, can take one to a few hours, depending on the meat. One-pound packages may be ready to cook in less than an hour, while three- and four-pound packages will take two or three hours. Just be sure to replace the tap water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw; if not, your frozen meat is basically just acting as an ice cube. If you have even less time, using the microwave can save the day, only if you plan to cook it immediately after thawing. Here’s the thing—foods defrosted by cold water or microwave thawing should not be refrozen without being cooked first, says the USDA. And you should never, ever defrost anything on the kitchen counter.