When you think of convenient and quick meals, you think of frozen microwave meals! Pop it into the freezer, take it out when you’re hungry, heat it in the microwave for a few minutes, and you’re done.
However, what if you forget your frozen microwave meals in the fridge instead of sliding them into the freezer?
Do you wonder if these meals are still fit for use after they have been in the fridge? We have the answer, but it is a little more complex than a yes or a no.
In this article, we explore this topic in detail so you can store your frozen microwave meals safely and not end up with spoilage!
Can You Keep Frozen Microwave Meals In The Fridge?
Frozen microwave dinners can be kept in the refrigerator, but only for a certain amount of time before they become unsafe to eat. Frozen microwave meals must be cooked and consumed within 24 hours of being placed in the refrigerator.
The meals cannot be refrozen after they have thawed in the fridge for a sufficient time. So chuck your frozen microwave dinners in the trash if they’ve been in the fridge beyond the recommended duration.
Are Frozen Microwave Meals Safe Once They’ve Been In The Fridge?
As mentioned in the previous section, it entirely depends on when the frozen meal was left in the fridge. In cases where it has been more than 24 hours, you might want to err on the side of caution and throw it out. It can have bacterial growth, and you do not want spoiled food in your mouth.
Bacteria grow quickly in frozen microwave meals when you thaw them, even if you thaw them in the refrigerator. Therefore, ensure they are adequately heated even after they have been thawed and follow proper cooking duration.
You can’t put the microwave meal back in the freezer after it’s been in the fridge for a while, even if it’s partially defrosted. This will not salvage it, and the bacteria will continue to grow.
Microwave meals are supposed to be flash-frozen, meaning the freezer should be at temperatures lower than it can. This way, the frozen meals are kept fresh and bacteria-free.
Chances of bacterial growth are ironically higher when these meals are taken out from rigidly low temperatures. This is why it gets a lot trickier during the thawing process. The reason why it is not wise to recommend leaving them in the fridge for too long (more than 24 hours).
What Are Some Of The Risks With Frozen Meals In The Fridge?
Frozen microwave meals have expiration dates, usually longer than regular refrigeration food. You may wonder if that means they are safe to be kept in the fridge till they expire.
However, they are not meant or intended to be kept in the fridge. They are meant for the freezer. Thereby, the expiration date here does not hold a lot of weight. Anyway, once you thaw the meal, the expiration date mentioned on the box is irrelevant.
The life of frozen microwave meals is longer in the freezer because they are flash-frozen and packaged accordingly. This keeps the bacteria from growing and elongates the shelf life. However, once you have kept it in their fridge, the clock starts ticking, and you no longer have the safety net of freezer temperatures. Because of this, bacterial growth is quite prevalent.
How to Tell if Your Frozen Meal Has Gone Bad
Beware and lookout for telltale signs that your frozen microwave meal has spoiled and is no longer edible. Here are a few signs you can rely on:
Discoloration: Foods that have changed color, mainly grey and dull, have probably gone bad. This discoloration happens due to bacterial growth and indicates the food will or has gone stale. If your frozen food looks lifeless, throw it out.
Bad Texture: When it comes to food, in general, the texture is essential when you’re checking its health. If it feels sticky or slimy in texture, it has gone bad.
Bad Odor: If your food smells pungent, it could be a sign of yeast or mold growth. It is no longer safe to eat.
Condensation: A lesser-known sign of spoiled food is condensation (water droplets) in the container you have stored the frozen microwave meal as it begins to thaw.
Tip: Do not wait to be entirely sure of these factors; throw the food at the slightest speculation. Once bacteria have gotten a hold of your food, it is not easy to safely kill them, even with cooking. Better safe than sorry.
Things To Consider If You Accidentally Put Frozen Food In Refrigerator
1. The temperature of the fridge
The fridge’s internal temperature is why keeping frozen food in it is not recommended. Frozen microwave meals or ready meals should be kept at sub-zero temperature (temperature below zero degrees). Otherwise, it will get spoiled and attract bacterial growth. It would be best if you avoided this at all costs as these bacteria are dangerous.
In cases where you have left and forgotten the frozen microwave food in the fridge, your first task is to check the setting of the fridge. Check whether it was the coldest or warmest setting. These details will help you understand how badly your frozen food has been impacted. In cases where your fridge is in the coldest setting, you might actually be able to salvage it safely.
2. Time Spent In The Fridge
As mentioned earlier in the article, the amount of time the frozen food was in the fridge is essential in your mission to save it. Was it a few minutes, or has it been days? If it has been more than 24 hours, you should not even waste your time checking for spoilage signs and toss it into the garbage bin.
3. Type of Food You Freeze
Assess the type of food you have frozen. If it is a warm chicken meal, it is a high possibility it will spoil quickly and much faster than a warm plant-based meal. Certain foods and meals are susceptible to decaying faster, like, eggs or already defrosted/thawed meat.
Conclusively, it is not the ideal thing to put frozen microwave meals or ready meals in the fridge. You will be putting your health at significant risk for foodborne diseases as bacterial growth is rapid when these meals thaw, even in the fridge.
However, there are ways to salvage these meals by considering some factors we have mentioned in the article. Did you find this article helpful? Comment below and let us know.