Frozen meals are designed to be quick, convenient meals that you can heat up straight from the freezer within minutes. What happens if you accidentally leave your freezer meals in the fridge, rather than putting them in the freezer? You may think that because they are still in a refrigerated setting, they are still safe to eat, but you can eat frozen microwave meals that have been stored in the fridge.
Can You Store Frozen Microwave Meals in the Fridge?
You can store frozen microwave meals in the fridge, but there is a timeline as to how long they are safe for. If you put frozen microwave meals in the fridge, they must be eaten within 24 hours. Once the meals have been in the fridge long enough to thaw, they can not be refrozen. So if your frozen microwave meals have been in the fridge for longer than 24 hours, toss them in the bin.
Are Frozen Microwave Meals Safe Once They’ve Been In The Fridge?
The answer is yes and no. It comes down to how long they have been in the fridge for. If it has been more than 24 hours, it is safer just to throw them out. Otherwise, you’re eating something that has been growing bacteria for an extended period. Frozen microwave meals are designed to be flash-frozen to prevent bacteria from growing. Once it thaws, bacteria will begin to grow, even in the refrigerator.
Be sure to properly heat it, even though it’s already thawed, you still need to adhere to proper cooking times.
Once your microwave meal has been in the fridge for enough time for it to defrost, you cannot put it back into the freezer. Once your frozen meal has thawed, it will begin to grow bacteria. Putting it back in the freezer will not prevent the growth of bacteria.
To freeze microwave meals, they are flash-frozen at very low temperatures. Lower temperatures than your freezer can go. While it will freeze, the microwave meal will freeze in a slow pattern from the inside out. This will trap bacteria in your microwave meal and put you at risk for foodborne illnesses if you consume them.
What Are Some Of The Risks With Frozen Meals In The Fridge?
Frozen microwave meals have expiration dates that are longer than refrigerator food. However, just because those dates may not expire if they are kept in the freezer, there is no way of knowing if the food was frozen close to or right before the expiration date had it been intended for the fridge. Once it thaws, that expiration date on the box is no longer relevant. You may be eating food that has already expired.
Bacterial growth is also another prevalent issue. The reason that foods last so long in the freezer is that they are packaged and flash frozen in a way that prevents bacteria from growing. This extends its shelf life. Once it goes into the fridge, you no longer have that safety net of freezer temperatures to keep your meals at a low enough temperature to prevent bacteria growth.
How to Tell if Your Frozen Meal Has Gone Bad
You want to be careful to look out for a few telltale signs that your frozen meal has gone bad after thawing. One that may not come to mind at first is coloring. If the color of your food appears dull or grey, this is a good indication that your frozen meal has spoiled during the thawing process.
The texture is also important. If anything has a slimy or sticky texture it is spoiled. Odor is another prevalent sign of spoilage. If you even question any of these factors, it’s better to be safe than sorry and throw out your frozen meal once it has thawed.
Lastly, one lesser-known sign of spoilage is condensation. If you see condensation on the inside of the film on your frozen meal as it thaws, this is a sign of bacteria growth. Even with cooking, you can not safely kill off that bacteria and will put yourself at risk.
Frequently Asked Questions About If You Can Store Frozen Microwave Meals in the Fridge
Do frozen microwave meals reheat properly once they’ve been left in the fridge?
When cooking a frozen meal that has been allowed to thaw in the fridge, you can experience different textures or end cooking results. Because your food is designed to be cooked frozen, without that added moisture, you can end up with dry or ill-desired textures in your meal. Because it can be diffuse to determine the time in the microwave once it has been thawed to properly cook your frozen meal, it is easy to overcook.
Can you reheat a frozen meal that has been thawed and stored after cooking?
If you have cooked a frozen meal that was left in the fridge and have leftovers, just discard it. Even though you’ve heated it, you still don’t know if the food has spoiled past the unfrozen expiration date. You are still putting yourself at risk of contracting a food-borne illness.
Does a frozen meal lose flavor if it has been stored in the fridge?
Like with freshness and preservation, the flavor is also designed to be flash-frozen into your meal during the packaging process. If you leave your frozen meal to thaw in the fridge, you may notice a loss of flavor and a change in texture. This usually becomes more significant as you approach the 24-hour mark. That’s one of the reasons why it is in your best interest to eat frozen meals that have been left in the fridge as soon as possible.
Conclusion About Frozen Microwave Meals in the Fridge
You can put microwave meals in the fridge, but only for a certain amount of time. Your frozen meals will only last for 24 hours in the fridge. Any longer and you’re putting yourself at risk for food-borne illnesses.
If you put a frozen microwave meal in the fridge on accident, you need to eat it within 24 hours, otherwise, toss it out. Also, be sure to never put a frozen microwave meal back into the freezer once it has been in the fridge.