How to defrost meat?

FSIS

As soon as raw or cooked meat, poultry or egg products begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. There are safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.

Refrigerator Thawing

  • Planning ahead is the key because a large frozen turkey requires at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds.
  • Small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw
  • Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F.
  • After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, seafood, should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking.
  • Red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) should remain safe and good quality 3 to 5 days.
  • Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

Cold Water Thawing

  • This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention.
  • The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, the meat tissue may absorb water, resulting in a watery product.
  • The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw.
  • Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood — about a pound — may thaw in 1 hour or less.
  • A 3-to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound.
  • Once thawed food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.

Microwave Thawing

  • After thawing in the microwave, always cook immediately, whether microwave cooking, by conventional oven, or grilling.
  • Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and, indeed, the food may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow.
  • Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
  • Also, never thaw foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.

Cooking Without Thawing

  • It is safe to cook foods from the frozen state.
  • The cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.

Remember: Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

Freezing is a pretty convenient way of preserving most types of food. Thawing, on the other hand, is not that convenient because it takes time. That means it often requires you to plan ahead to have the food ready for cooking or reheating when needed. Also, if you don’t defrost food properly, there’s a risk of contamination. Many people defrost food on the counter, and that’s usually not the safest way to go. This goes especially for foods left to sit at room temperature for hours at a time as well as foods that you’re not planning to cook thoroughly before eating.

The Danger of Thawing Foods at Room Temperature

The danger zone for bacterial growth in food is between 40°Farenheit and 140°Fahrenheit or 5°Celcius and 60°Celcius. That means that bacteria that might have been present in the food before freezing starts to multiply once the food reaches that temperature rapidly. Because of that, you want to avoid leaving the food at that temperature for extended periods of time.

But that big package of meat that sits on the counter is still frozen, you say. While the center of the package is definitely still frozen, the outer layer after sitting for some time at room temperature is most likely not. And that means the bacteria can start to multiply there, which may cause foodborne illness.

Of course, you can thaw frozen meat and other food on the counter a hundred times and never get sick after eating it. From time to time, I defrost food on the counter myself because it’s the easiest way of thawing frozen foods. However, you should be aware that this method is risky and there are better alternatives out there. Obviously, most of them require some additional steps, but at the very least, they keep the food relatively safe from bacteria.

Image used from Devin Rajaram

How To Thaw Food Safely

There are several ways of thawing food safely. These include:

  • Refrigerator Thawing
  • Cold Water Thawing
  • Microwave Thawing
  • Cooking Without Thawing

Refrigerator Thawing

Thawing frozen foods in the fridge is by far the safest way to defrost most foods, including meats and poultry. In fact, the USDA recommends freezer-to-fridge defrosting because this method keeps thawed food safer to eat while retaining the ability to refreeze the thawed foods. That said, thawing frozen foods in the fridge takes a lot of time, so it’s best to plan ahead if you’re about to cook up a storm.

A massive chunk of meat will take hours to thaw in the fridge. For example, a large to medium-sized turkey will take at least 24 hours to defrost. Boneless chicken breasts or a pound of ground beef, on the other hand, will take 12 hours to thaw completely. Generally, it takes at least a day to thaw every 5 pounds of weight. Other factors that you should consider when thawing foods in the fridge include the thermostat setting as well as cold spots in the refrigerator. Food will take longer to defrost in a fridge that’s set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F. Some parts of the refrigerator are much colder than others. Thawing foods in the coldest spot in the fridge may lead to longer defrosting time.

Last but not least, you can refreeze food defrosted in the fridge. Refreezing thawed foods can be done safely, but there will be minimal loss of quality.

Cold Water Thawing

Cold water thawing is one of the quickest ways to defrost a variety of foods. The process involves submerging frozen food in a pot or container of cold water until the food is completely defrosted. This method is definitely faster than defrosting frozen food in the fridge.

Please note that you should keep the water as cold as possible when thawing. This way you avoid food entering the temperature danger zone. Another option is to place the food in the container with water into the fridge. This way you can be sure the food you’re defrosting won’t enter the danger zone. To speed things up a bit, you can change the water every 30 minutes or so.

Some people do cold water thawing in the sink. When you’re thawing a big bag of meat or a whole turkey, the sink is often the only place where it will fit. If that’s the case, sanitize the sink first, so it doesn’t contaminate the food you’re thawing. If you can fit the food you want to defrost into a container or a pot, it’s almost always a better choice. That’s because it takes less place and water to do the thawing.

Generally, you can thaw a pound of frozen foods in an hour or less. 3 to 4 pounds of food could take longer, about 2 to 3 hours. For example, a pound of ground meat will only take 30 minutes to thaw, but a whole turkey could take 3 hours to defrost this way. Once you start using this method on a regular basis, you’ll be able to tell how long it will take to defrost a certain amount of food.


Image used from Annie Spratt

Microwave Thawing

This is a fast and convenient way to defrost a variety of frozen foods. However, if you got the settings wrong, you might end up cooking the food you are trying to defrost. Because of that, be mindful of the temperature setting and the defrosting intervals.

Thankfully, most microwave ovens now come with a “defrost” setting. It might take several tries before thawing a big chunk of frozen solid meat this way, so check the food each time a microwaving interval ends. Uneven defrosting is also common when you defrost food using a microwave oven, so it’s best to cook the food immediately after thawing. You can refreeze foods thawed in the microwave as long as you have cooked them thoroughly first.

For more details instruction on defrosting in the microwave, check out our Microwaving FAQ.

Cooking Without Thawing

When you’re cooking a dish and are pressed for time, you can always skip the thawing and cook the frozen foods directly. Of course, you have to adjust the cooking time to account for the time it takes for the frozen ingredients to thaw while being cooked in a dish. The cooking time will also take longer because the frozen ingredients have to be thawed thoroughly during cooking.

Frozen vegetables, soups, meats, and poultry can be safely cooked without thawing as long as these ingredients have been prepped (cleaned, cut, and washed) beforehand. Soups could be cooked without being thawed too.

If you are a meal-prepper, cooking without thawing is your best friend. After a long day at work, you grab your meal-prep container from the freezer, throw the contents onto a non-stick pan and set it on low to defrost. Once the food is defrosted, turn the heat on high to reheat your meal and have your dinner ready in no time.

Photo: Nick Sarro (Unsplash)

If you’ve ever found yourself in a position where you need to defrost some chicken thighs ASAP, you’ve probably wondered which thawing method is best and also quickest. Well, you’re in luck—because that’s exactly what we’re about to tell you.

But before we get to thawing, you should know some of the best practices to freeze food. If it’s not frozen right in the first place, the thawing process will be inconsistent and there’s a higher chance of developing bacteria. The Kitchn claims to have a foolproof method that keeps frozen meats good for three months:

When packaging meats for the freezer, the most important thing is to protect them from exposure to air. Wrap meats very tightly in either plastic wrap or freezer paper, pressing the wrapping right up against the surface of the meat. Next, wrap another layer of aluminum foil around the meat or seal it inside a zip-top freezer bag. Packaged like this, meat can be kept frozen for at least three months.

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Now that you have your meat, you need to know how to thaw it correctly for the best taste. Let’s go.

Avoid room temperature

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The first rule of thaw club is that we don’t talk about room temperature. Just keeping your frozen food out on the countertop for a long time is asking for trouble.

Remember, the “danger zone” for bacterial growth in food is between 40°F and 140°F (5°C and 60°C), and sitting right in the middle of that is “room temperature,” around 68°-70°F (20°-22°C). A couple of hours at room temperature will certainly make sure that the meat is thawed, but it’s a field day for bacterial growth as well, especially as the deeper parts of your cut begin to come up to temp while the outsides have been room temperature for hours.

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If you are going to thoroughly cook it later, there’s a good chance that bacteria like E. Coli will get destroyed in the process. But as a general safety practice, it’s better to avoid thawing at room temperature. So what are your alternatives?

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Pop it into the fridge

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Works with: Meat, fruits, some vegetables, frozen foods

The most common thawing technique, and one of the safest, is to take your frozen food out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator. This takes longer than any other process, but you are assured that since it is confined to the cold environment of your fridge, it won’t develop bacteria.

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The other benefit is that a fridge’s temperature is controlled, so your thawing process is more even. You do need to make sure that the temperature is 40°F or below. Of course, the closer you are to 40 Fahrenheit, the faster the meat will thaw, but 35-40 is the best zone. Additionally, there isn’t a rapid cool-down from the freezing temperature so again, you get some uniformity. The USDA adds that the freezer-to-fridge process also keeps thawed food safer for longer and retains the ability to refreeze:

After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, seafood, should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking; red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) 3 to 5 days. Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

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But the freezer-to-fridge method takes time. Depending on the size of your food, you might have to leave it in the fridge anywhere from 8-24 hours. Not everyone plans their meals that much in advance.

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Use a cold water bath

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Works with: Meat, fruits

If you plan on cooking the food immediately and need to thaw it quickly, a cold water bath is a good option. It does take attention, however, so it’s not going to be as simple as the fridge technique, according to the USDA.

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You will need to wrap your food in a sealed plastic bag, making sure there are no leaks. If your frozen food already came in a plastic bag, just to be safe, throw it into a Ziploc bag. Since we are going to submerge this in water, you’re better to be safe than sorry.

Grab a bowl in which your frozen food can fit and fill it with cold tap water. Submerge your sealed food into this water. You will need to change the water whenever it comes to room temperature—on average, this is about 30 minutes, but it could vary depending on your climate, so pay attention.

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If that seems like too much trouble, The Kitchn says that you can also keep it running under a rapidly dripping faucet as long as the water is cool to the touch. But that’ll use up a lot more water.

Depending on the size and nature of your food, it will defrost in an hour or less, but larger frozen foods (like a whole turkey) can take up to three hours. In those situations, it’ll take about 30 minutes per pound.

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The USDA is adamant about one point: you need to cook the food after a cold water bath. It can’t be refrozen.

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Last-minute for thin cuts: use a hot water bath

Works with: Meat, fruits

When you need your meat thawed as quickly as possible, your best bet is probably a hot water bath. But you will need water that is at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, ideally. Two studies back this up: The USDA tested the method with beef steaks, while the Utah State University used chicken breasts.

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The hot water bath is meant for thin cuts only, so your large roasts and whole turkeys are still left best in the fridge. But for a quick steak, it’s a great last-minute solution.

In the tests, the beef thawed in 11 minutes at 102 degrees, while the chicken thawed in 8.5 minutes at 140 degrees. Both studies found that not only did a hot water bath speed up the process over refrigeration, but tasters could not tell the difference between fridge-thawed and hot-water-thawed meats later.

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But as The New York Times warns, your results will vary and this method isn’t for everyone:

Quick-thawing is easy to adopt in the home kitchen. But don’t expect your thaw times to match the lab times I’ve quoted unless you have an immersion circulator or another method to keep the water in motion and at a constant temperature. If the water is still, a cold zone develops around the food and insulates it from the remaining warm water. And without infusions of hot water or heat from a burner, the icy food cools the water bath.

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To avoid the still water, it’s best to stir it occasionally, or run a steady drip of hot water in the bath. And yeah, like the cold water bath, you need to cook this after thawing; there’s no refreezing.

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Immediate cooking: Microwave it

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Works with: Meat, fruits, some vegetables, frozen foods

This isn’t a method you should use unless you want to cook immediately. Chances are, you need to prep other things so the half hour needed for the cold water bath is a reliable option in most cases. But just in case you need your fix right now, then turn to the microwave and its defrost setting.

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There are a few things to keep in mind here. Of course, for the microwave process, you need to remove all plastics and keep the meat in a microwave-safe bowl or plate. The biggest problem with thawing in the microwave is that they have hot spots which heat your food unevenly and can even start cooking your food, which you definitely don’t want. So you need to be ready to cook as soon as thawing is done, says the USDA:

Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and, indeed, the food may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow.

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Like with the hot water bath method, this is best left for thinner slices than large meats. If you do need to microwave larger meats, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the back.

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Speed it up: pour some vinegar on it It Up:

Works with: Meat

To fire it up if you can’t get enough, you may want to pour some vinegar on it. This is a two-in-one trick since it speeds up the process while also tenderizing the meat. The vinegar lowers the freezing temperature while its acid deliciously breaks down connective tissues. And it can be rinsed off later if necessary.

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Boil it: don’t thaw veggies, cook them

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Works with: All vegetables

Contrary to what you may have heard, most frozen vegetables don’t need to be thawed. You are better off putting them directly in boiling water. Vegetables are usually flash-frozen directly after picking, which means they retain most of their nutrients. The thawing process can release these nutrients. The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) notes a few exceptions that should be partially thawed, including corn on the cob:

Most frozen vegetables should be cooked without thawing first. Corn on the cob should be partially thawed before cooking in order for the cob to be heated through by the time the corn is cooked. Letting the corn sit after thawing or cooking causes sogginess. Leafy greens, such as turnip greens and spinach, cook more evenly if partially thawed before cooking.

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The cooking process is up to you. The NCHFP recommends putting them directly in boiling water, with a ratio of a half cup of water to a pint package. The Kitchn finds that boiling frozen veggies makes them icky, so they recommend steaming them into the microwave with the water going one-third of the way up the side of the vegetables.

With either method, you want to remember one thing: frozen vegetables will release water rapidly, so take that into account when adding your own water. You don’t want to end up with a mushy mess.

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When can you refreeze thawed food?

This is a simple rule to follow: Unless you have opted for the refrigeration method of thawing, you should never refreeze thawed food as-is. You can cook the food and freeze it again, though.

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Sometimes, you may be halfway through the thawing process when you decide you don’t need the frozen food and want to pop it back in. How do you tell if the food has completely thawed or not? The best way is to use an appliance thermometer and check if it has hit 40°F. If it’s still below that, you can safely pop it back into the freezer. Above 40°F, you will need to cook it.

Not everyone has an appliance thermometer though, in which case, Foodsafety.gov has prepared a handy chart that will let you know what you can eat and what you need to toss out.

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This story was originally published on 4/28/14 and was updated on 7/19/19 to provide more thorough and current information.

Freezing is a way to extend the shelf-life of food products using low temperature. Under freezing temperature, some germs may be killed but some can survive. However, no germ can grow at such low temperature.

Before cooking or eating frozen foods, defrosting is required. Defrosting is a way to soften frozen food into its original form. During defrosting, a good practice need to be applied. Otherwise, the germs in food may grow rapidly.

Four commonly used defrosting methods will be compared. They are (i) defrosting by refrigerator; (ii) defrosting under running water; (iii) defrosting by microwave oven; and (iv) defrosting at room temperature. Among these defrosting methods, which is the best way to prepare frozen food? Check these out!

  Defrosting by refrigerator (4 C) Defrosting under running water (18 C) Defrosting by microwave oven Defrosting at room temperature (20-25 C)

How fast to defrost

More than 10 hours;

Longest time is needed due to low temperature in the refrigerator (

Around 2 hour;

Around 30 mins;

The fastest way for defrosting among these methods.

5-6 hours;

 

* *** **** **

Shelf-life

(kept at the same situation)

1-2 days;

The bacterial growth is low due to low temperature.

< 4 hours;

Bacterial growth can occur. The shelf-life of it depends on the temperature of tap water. Generally, the quality of food is acceptable within 4 hours.

0 hour;

The defrosted food must be eaten immediately because the temperature of defrosted food may rise to 25-35 C which the bacteria can grow rapidly.

0 hours;

All foods should not be placed at room temperature for more than 4 hours. The RTE octopus has been placed at room temperature for 5-6 hours. They may not be safe for consumption.

**** *** *

After defrosting, the products are placed at room temperature for 2 hours more. Are they safe for consumption?

During the whole defrosting, the food is kept at low temperature and the germs can not grow rapidly. If they are placed at room temperature for 2 more hours, it is still safe for consumption.

After defrosting, it should be safe for eating after 2 hours display.

After defrosting, the temperature of some parts may rise to >30 C. This can facilitate the bacterial growth. Therefore, they must be eaten immediately. No further display is allowed.

They have already been placed at room temperature for defrosting for 5-6 hours. They may not be safe for consumption.

**** *** *

Result

9*

9*

6*

2*

After three rounds of competition, the winners are the ways done by refrigerator and running water. Although the fastest way is to defrost by microwave oven, the safest way is to defrost by refrigerator. In fact, most food manufacturers choose refrigeration to thaw their foods, either cooked or uncooked. This is because the food is kept at low temperature and this can effectively slow down bacterial growth.

Among the above four defrosting methods, defrosting at room temperature is not recommended. We should avoid doing so. This is because the frozen food is placed at ambient temperature for a long time. Time for defrosting highly depends on the quantity needed to be defrosted. In some cases, more than 4 hours may be needed and it is not recommended. For the other three methods, we should pay attention on the following points.

Defrosting by refrigerator

  • We need to plan ahead that what food will be cooked in the next day because of a long defrosting time, usually overnight.
  • Food should be wrapped to prevent contamination.
  • We should place ready-to-eat (RTE) food and non-ready-to-eat food at upper and lower compartments of refrigerator respectively.
  • The defrosted food should be placed in refrigerator at all time until it is used or consumed.
  • Food should be used or consumed within 2 days.

Defrosting under running water

  • RTE food should be wrapped before putting in water to prevent contamination.
  • Non-RTE food could be defrosted without wrapping, but thorough cleaning of equipment and utensil must be performed before and after to avoid transmission of bacteria to other food.
  • Water should be kept running to facilitate faster defrosting.
  • If the defrosted food is not used immediately, they should be wrapped and put in refrigerator.

Defrosting by microwave oven

  • Food should be wrapped before putting in microwave oven.
  • The defrosting should be divided into two phases. Food should be taken out for stirring or turning over to facilitate adequate and even defrosting.
  • We should turn off the machine and wait for a few seconds before taking food out.
  • Food must be cooked or consumed immediately because the temperature of some parts of the food may become higher than 30 C. Such warm temperature may facilitate bacterial growth in food.

To prevent bacterial food poisoning, don’t re-freeze defrosted food.

Flickr Photo by Your Best Digs licensed under CC BY 2.0

You just remembered that your steak you wanted to cook for dinner is still in the freezer, as hard as a rock. Unfortunately, thawing frozen steak isn’t always a quick process, but we’re going to teach you how to thaw frozen steak as quickly – and safely – as possible so that you can enjoy that beefy flavor soon.

Remember that, when you buy steaks from the Chicago Steak Company, your steaks are shipped in vacuum-sealed packaging, so no air gets in. That means that you can keep them frozen without ruining their quality. But, how can you defrost steak that you purchase without harming its texture or flavor?

What’s the Best Way to Thaw Steak?

Most meats require similar thawing methods to thaw safely. It’s important to keep your steak, too, within safe temperatures as it thaws so that you prevent fast-growing bacteria from taking over your steak, which can make you ill.

The best way to defrost meat, including steaks, is by leaving them in their vacuum-sealed packaging, placing them flat on a plate to catch drippings and then putting them in the refrigerator. You should give at least 24 hours for your steaks to thaw completely, but some thicker cuts may require more time.

The idea behind defrosting steaks in the fridge is that the method allows your steaks to thaw at a safe temperature, preventing bacteria growth. Just because your mom left steaks on the kitchen counter to thaw for a couple of hours doesn’t mean that’s the best way to thaw a steak (and definitely not the safest!).

Is Defrosting Steak in Water or a Microwave Ever a Good Idea?

Of course, you might need your steaks a little faster and want to know how to thaw frozen steak quicker than the refrigeration method.

Your microwave probably has a defrost setting. This setting is good if you’re really in a pinch (as in – you need dinner now!), but it’s not one we’d recommend otherwise. Defrosting frozen steak in the microwave can strip the steak of its juices, leaving it tougher than you’d want it to be. However, if you do decide to use this method, be sure to check your meat frequently and only allow it to be in the microwave long enough to thaw, rather than cook. Then, you should immediately cook your steak using your preferred cooking method.

Some people also choose to thaw meats in water to help them along. Although some research has suggested that using very warm water to thaw steak quickly and immediately cooking it after can prevent the steak from reaching a temperature that spreads harmful bacteria, the USDA still recommends using cold water instead. Yes, it’ll take longer, but it also can keep you safe and healthy.

To defrost steaks faster than you can in the fridge, submerge them in cold water in a leak-proof bag, keeping them in their vacuum-sealed packaging. You’ll also need to change the water every 20-30 minutes to make sure it stays cold. Monitor them as you thaw to make sure that your steaks stay in the water and that the water is cold.

How Long Will My Steak Take to Thaw?

The cold-water method can take a few hours, while you should plan on thawing your steak in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. However, the thickness of your steaks makes a big difference. Thin, 1-pound steaks may take between 1-2 hours using the cold-water method, whereas a 3-pound steak will likely take closer to 3 or 4 hours to thaw. In the fridge, expect larger steaks to vary between 24 and 30 hours, while smaller steaks may take about 18 to 24 hours.

Final Thoughts: How to Thaw Frozen Steak the Right Way

Now you know how to defrost steak so that you can maintain its flavor and texture and your health. You can learn more about our vacuum-sealing and shipping processes in our FAQ section. Our packaging helps preserve the flavor and texture of your steaks so that you can thaw them without worrying about compromising their quality.

© Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Tucking into a big, juicy steak is one of life’s greatest pleasures…which is why it’s heartbreaking to come home after a long day and realize that you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. (Dammit.) Relax—flank steak tacos are still on the menu. Here are three easy methods to defrost your meat, depending on how much time you have.

If you have 24 hours, defrost steak in the fridge. This is by far the best method—both for safety (the fridge ensures no spreading of harmful bacteria) and taste (all those juices stay firmly in place). Sure, it requires some forward-thinking (try setting a reminder on your phone), but it’s also the most hands-off method. Simple take your meat out of the freezer approximately 12 to 24 hours before cooking, put on a plate to catch any juices and let it defrost in the fridge. A one-inch steak will take about 12 hours to thaw while some thicker cuts may need longer. Easy.

If you have a couple of hours, use cold water. Place steak in a leak-proof bag and in a bowl filled with cold water, making sure that the meat is fully submerged. Replace the water every 20 to 30 minutes to make sure it stays cold. Using this method, a thin, one-pound steak will take between one to two hours to thaw while a three-pound cut will take closer to three or four hours. Keep an eye on your steak frequently and cook immediately when thawed.

If you have five minutes, thaw steak in the microwave. First, a disclaimer: This method really isn’t the best. Why? Because the microwave can strip the steak of all those wonderful, chin-dribbling juices and leave you with tough meat. But if you’re really in a pinch, just place unwrapped meat on a plate and use your microwave’s defrost setting, making sure to check the status of your meat frequently. Depending on the weight and thickness of your steak, this method can take five to ten minutes.

Now you’re ready to eat. Bring on the chimichurri.

Related video: How to cook steak in a skillet

Uh, oh! You’re home and forgot to thaw something for dinner. You grab a package of meat or chicken and use hot water to thaw it fast. But is this safe? What if you remembered to take food out of the freezer, but forgot and left the package on the counter all day while you were at work?
Neither of these situations is considered safe, and these methods of thawing may lead to foodborne illness. Raw or cooked meat, poultry or egg products, as any perishable foods, must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” They are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as they begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
When thawing frozen food, it’s best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below.
There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.

  • Refrigerator Thawing
  • Cold Water Thawing
  • Microwave Thawing
  • Cooking Without Thawing

Refrigerator Thawing
Planning ahead is the key to this method because of the lengthy time involved. A large frozen item like a turkey requires at least a day (24 hours) for every 5 pounds of weight. Even small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, there are variables to take into account.

  • Some areas of the appliance may keep food colder than other areas.
  • Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F.

After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, seafood, should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking; red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) 3 to 5 days. Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

Cold Water Thawing
This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, the meat tissue may absorb water, resulting in a watery product.
The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood — about a pound — may thaw in an hour or less. A 3-to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately.
Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.

Microwave Thawing
When thawing food in a microwave, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the thawing process (bringing the food to “Danger Zone” temperatures). Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and, indeed, the food may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow.
After thawing in the microwave, always cook immediately after, whether microwave cooking, by conventional oven, or grilling.
Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
Also, never thaw foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.

Cooking Without Thawing
When there is not enough time to thaw frozen foods, or you’re simply in a hurry, just remember: it is safe to cook foods from the frozen state. The cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.
See also “Turkey Basics: Safe Thawing” at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Turkey_Basics_Safe_Thawing/index.asp

Trying to make dinner but not sure what to do with your frozen pork? Learn a few safe ways to thaw frozen foods.

Thawing is primarily used for frozen meats, poultry and seafood as most vegetables can be cooked without thawing. It is important to follow these guidelines to thaw safely because bacteria can multiply rapidly when left unrefrigerated for more than two hours in the so called temperature “danger zone,” between 40°F – 140 °F.

How To Thaw

Here are a few safe methods to thaw frozen foods:

1. In The Refrigerator:

  • Plan ahead because it takes about one day to thaw most foods.
  • Place frozen food on a plate or in any container to catch the juices that may leak.
  • Place in bottom of refrigerator.
  • You may refreeze food that has been thawed in the refrigerator before or after cooking.
  • This is the safest way to thaw meat and poultry.

2. In Cold Water:

  • Put the frozen item in a watertight plastic bag.
  • Submerge in cold water – cold water slows bacteria that might be growing in the thawed portions of the food.
  • Make sure to change water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook immediately after thawed.
  • You must fully cook all foods thawed in cold water before refreezing.
  • This is a faster method – takes a couple of hours depending on weight.

3. In The Microwave:

  • Remove any store wrapping.
  • Place in a microwave-safe container.
  • Follow microwave instructions from the owner’s manual.
  • Cook immediately after thawed.
  • You must fully cook all foods thawed in microwave before refreezing.
  • This method is for immediate thawing.

If you don’t have enough time to thaw food, just remember, it is safe to cook foods from a frozen state — but your cooking time will be approximately 50% longer than for fully thawed foods.

Most frozen vegetables can be cooked without thawing. Cook in ½ cup or less of water, drain and then season with your favorite herbs and spices.

Note:

  • Never thaw on the kitchen counter!
  • Never thaw in hot water!
  • Never thaw outdoors!