How to Safely Thaw Meat: Food Safety Post

Written by guest blogger – Michael Rich, Safety Services Company


Uh,oh! You’re home and realize there is nothing out for dinner.

In haste, you grab a package of chicken from the freezer, put it under hot running water and begin the thaw. Is this safe? What if instead you had pulled the chicken from the freezer the night before and left it on the counter, while you were at school. Is this safe?

If you think either of these thawing methods is acceptable, you are putting yourself in the line of danger.

Improperly thawed food can grow foodborne microorganisms making it unsafe. In fact bacteria in food can grow from one cell to 1 billion in just 10 hours. Pretty scary

To properly thaw food you can choose one of the following methods:

• Refrigerator Thawing
• Cold Water Thawing
• Microwave Thawing

Refrigerator Thawing
The refrigerator is the safest way to thaw food. However, it does require some preplanning because it is the slowest method of thawing. A large item like a turkey takes 24 hours for every five pounds to thaw. Most items — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts —can thaw in only a day though. To thaw in the refrigerator, place the meat in a drip proof covered container on the bottom of the fridge or a meat drawer.

After thawed, 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

Thawing in cold water is faster than the refrigerator method and if done properly is just as safe. To thaw with cold water first place the meat 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.

Next submerge the meat in cold tap water. Every 30 minutes you will need to drain the water and replace with fresh cold water to make sure the temperature doesn’t get too warm and bacteria don’t start to grow. Using this method you should be able to thaw a pound of meat in about an hour.
Once thawed the food needs to be cooked immediately and cannot be refrozen.

Microwave Thawing
The microwave is the fastest way to thaw food but produces uneven results. To thaw in the microwave place your meat in a microwave safe dish and place in the microwave. Make sure that you allow at least 2” between the food and the walls and ceiling of the microwave oven so that air can circulate properly.

After inserting your food set your microwave to the “defrost” or “50 percent power”, most microwaves will give you the auto defrost option but if yours’ doesn’t it typically takes 15 minutes to thaw a pound of meat. If you’re thawing a package of individual pieces (like steaks or patties) that were frozen together, pull them apart as soon as you can and thaw them one at a time. If your microwave doesn’t rotate every 5 minutes, you should turn the food 180° so that it thaws more evenly. After the food is thawed, be sure to cook food immediately to pre4vent growth of bacteria.

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