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I've looked online and have found conflicting opinions. Is it safe to reheat cooked meat in the oven without thawing it first?

For instance, can I cook a cottage pie or a chicken curry, for example, then freeze it (after it has reached room temp), then put it straight from the freezer into the oven, and cook it? I'm only interested in safety here.

If it is not piping hot in the middle, is this a safety concern? Or does it really not matter, since the meat has already been cooked?

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  • What container you’ve frozen it in is a factor: my mom would freeze lasagne in large pyrex pans, but they were the older borosilicate glass, and she would place it into a cold oven and then turn on the heat. Metal dishes are more forgiving to sudden temperature changes, and I’d recommend being very careful with newer pyrex dishes that don’t handle thermal shock as well.
    – Joe
    Feb 16, 2023 at 15:43
  • Thanks for the reply! I have a bunch of those foil dishes you get at some takeaway places. I love them because they're disposable, a good size for most dishes, freezer and oven safe, and thin which means the heat can get to the food easier Feb 17, 2023 at 11:53

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Sure you can - so long as you do it carefully & get it up to temperature right the way through before eating.

If you ever buy frozen cottage pie, lasagne, anything like that from the supermarket which cannot be stirred whilst heating, then the instructions will allow for that in the heating time & temperature.

If you have a food thermometer, all well & good. If not and you're uncertain, err on the side of caution. My usual trick for anything I need to heat through without poking big holes in to test it is to heat at about 160°C [or even lower, 140°, if it's particularly large] for 'at least 15 mins longer than you think'. This is going to depend on depth & overall size - supermarket products tend to be quite shallow to aid heating through, but for a 'family-size' home made I'd be looking at something like 40 - 50 minutes, hence the lower temperature. You don't want the outside to burn before the inside is heated.

Partially-heating is potentially very unsafe, so until you develop a feel for this, you really are going to have to poke holes in the middle to be absolutely certain it's hot right through.

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  • For the Americans: 160°C = 320°F ; 140°C ≈ 285°F. I personally start at a lower heat, then once the middle is warmed through, turn up the heat or switch it to broil (extreme top heat) to brown the top.
    – Joe
    Feb 16, 2023 at 15:40
  • Why are you saying that reheating a frozen, cooked meal is unsafe? I would expect that it should be safe even when just barely thawed. Feb 17, 2023 at 0:11
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    You have to add up all the time the item has spent at between 8 and 60°C [40-140°F]. As that's a bit of an uncertainty, it's safest to make sure it's properly heated. If you look at the instructions on a supermarket one it will always say something like 'make sure it is piping hot' even though they gave you a time & temperature.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 17, 2023 at 7:34
  • @Tetsujin what if I didn't heat it all the way through? What if, hypothetically, my lasagna was piping hot on the outside, but still cold/lukewarm on the inside? Might not taste very good, but since the meat is already cooked, would it be safe? Feb 17, 2023 at 11:54
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    It's all to do with the 'danger zone' See cooking.stackexchange.com/q/12992/42066
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 17, 2023 at 12:09

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