If you’ve had a power failure, or a container of ice cream has been left out of the freezer and has melted, you may be wondering: ‘Can I refreeze ice cream that is partially thawed?’
We all know reheating food left out for a while can pose a health hazard, but what about colder items?
Can you melt and refreeze ice cream? Here, we explore what happens if you do.
Can melted ice cream be frozen once it has melted?
First, let’s consider the question; ‘How long can you keep ice cream in the freezer?’
Most food experts would say that if it is a commercial ice cream stored in an appropriate container in the coldest part of the freezer, then about two to four months.
Meanwhile, a home-made or artisan ice that contains no preservatives would be OK for about a month.
Take it out of the freezer and its shelf-life becomes a great deal shorter.
But can ice cream freeze after melting? Well of course, but there are reasons why you might not want that to happen.
Ice cream is an emulsion that is a mixture of two liquids that don’t normally combine together.
Its composition includes tiny ice crystals that are surrounded by air cells and fat. If this frozen confection is placed in a temperature above the recommended -10°C to -12°C (14°F to 10°F) the ice crystals begin to melt and the structure of the ice cream is destabilised.
As anyone who has ever tried to eat an ice cream on a hot sunny day will know, the warmer the temperature the quicker the ice crystals disappear.
Because the walls of the cells break and lose moisture, fat floats above the water and that means it does not have the same structure as it had when it was first made. The ice crystals will be larger than they were before so the texture will have changed, and the taste will have altered too.
So, can you eat ice cream that has melted and refrozen? You can if you refreeze ice cream that has been slightly melted and has been kept cold. For example, if you’ve brought it home from the supermarket in a freezer bag and it has softened a little bit, but you might not wish to if it has been left out of the freezer for a few hours, as not only will it taste spoilt, but you may even be putting your health at risk if you do.
This is because when ice cream melts, bacteria such as listeria is given the right kind of conditions to grow and can cause people to become very ill with listeriosis.
Not everyone gets sick, but be aware that you need to err on the side of caution.
Ice cream is often given to the elderly, babies and young children and any kind of food poisoning would be highly detrimental to their health. So basically, if your ice cream has melted, then throw it away.
We are assuming here that restaurants and commercial food suppliers would not want to send out refrozen ice cream to their customers simply because it just won’t be as good as it was before, but the prospect of giving people food poisoning and the consequent damage that will do to your business means it just isn’t worth taking the risk.
How to tell if ice cream has been melted and then refrozen
It becomes grainy.
The first time ice cream is frozen, the ice crystals that form are tiny and uniform. However, if it’s refrozen after it melts, much larger ice crystals actually form. These make for a product that has a grainy, unpleasant texture.
How long does it take for bacteria to grow on melted ice cream?
Ice cream is a delicious confection and for it to stay that way care needs to be taken to keep it at the right temperature.
If your ice cream is left out for a short period of time, slight melting will not be a problem, especially if it has been somewhere cold but if it is left at room temperature for more than two hours then there is a risk to health.
This is because temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C) are known to encourage the growth of bacteria which will quickly multiply and result in the production of toxins which are not destroyed by freezing.
This is particularly relevant if they contain raw eggs, as many artisan ice creams do.
Can you refreeze melted non-dairy ice cream?
Non-dairy ice cream is created by substituting eggs and cream for plant-based alternatives like coconut, soy, almond and cashew milk.
It is made in a similar way to conventional ice cream so, if it does melt, there could be some ingredient separation. However, it can be refrozen without posing the same health hazard as conventional ice cream.
You might choose not to do this however, as there will still be risks, depending upon other ingredients that have been added and both taste and texture might be affected.
At Venturepak, we are here to help you decide which container best suits your manufacturing and storage requirements.
Looking for the best way to store ice cream?
Don’t hesitate to contact us today, and ask any questions.