Why You Should Think Twice About Refreezing Melted Ice Cream

Ice cream is one yummy treat we can hardly resist when the scorching sun is out and summer comes calling. But when you accidentally leave your tub of creamy goodness out in the open only to find a sad molten puddle of dairy, how do you recover the snack? If refreezing is what's on your mind, you better pause and rethink that decision.

Refreezing warm ice cream can be a bad idea because melting completely changes its texture and taste. Instead of the light, smooth, and fluffy treat you're expecting, what you'll have after refreezing is a dense, icy product with a grainy consistency. This is because ice cream becomes light and creamy as a result of the churning process, where air is whipped in and very tiny ice crystals form. But once it melts, the air escapes resulting in a hard block where the tiny ice crystals have coalesced into larger ones. 

And if the transformed texture isn't enough to make you rethink refreezing, consider your safety. According to the CDC, any perishable food left out long enough to reach what it regards as the "Danger Zone" of between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, the higher the risk harmful bacteria has multiplied within it. So if your ice cream is exposed to such conditions, refreezing it won't kill the bugs, and once you consume it later, you risk contracting a foodborne illness.

How to salvage melted ice cream

But melted ice cream is not necessarily bound for the bin. If, for example, it liquified as a result of being mistakenly placed in the fridge, it's safe. Or, if it was out in the open for less than two hours, isn't completely melted, and its warmest part is less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it's also cleared for reuse. After you can confidently say your tub has passed this clean bill of health, there are some tasty ways to repurpose it. 

Just because it's no good as ice cream doesn't mean you couldn't incorporate it into some other recipes, like sauces or baked goods. For example, you can pour the melted ice cream over baked desserts in place of crème anglaise — since it's made of basically the same ingredients (cream, sugar, vanilla, and eggs). Or you could make the 3-ingredient crème brûlée that TikTok-popularized by adding an egg yolk to your liquified ice cream, baking it, and torching some sprinkled sugar on top. If you're in the mood for something hotter, use the sweet slurry in place of milk in a 1 to 1 ratio of wet/dry ingredients for a cake recipe; just remember to add sugar to taste, as the ice cream will have already sweetened it quite a bit.

With that, your accidentally thawed ice cream could just be an opportunity to unlock a world of other incredible treats you'd have never thought of otherwise.