The most natural way to preserve meat is by freezing, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding about how to quickly and safely defrost frozen meat. Freezing meat gives us the longest shelf life possible with no need for chemicals or additives and only a low temperature to lock in all the freshness and flavor. Today, we’ll look at how to defrost meat, which is the second phase of this freezing process.
What’s the safest way to defrost meat?
The best way to safely defrost meat is to leave it in the refrigerator overnight until it is completely thawed. Ground meat, poultry, and seafood can all be kept in the refrigerator for an additional day or two after they have been thawed, while red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and steak) can be kept for an additional three to five days. While choosing to defrost meat in the fridge does require advance planning, it has the added benefit of allowing you to safely refreeze it (though you might experience some loss of quality).
Can you defrost meat in cold water?
This method will properly and quickly defrost meat without a microwave in just about an hour, but it does require you to be more hands-on. Squeeze out as much air as you can before placing your frozen cut of meat in a resealable plastic bag. Place the bag in a large bowl of cold water that has been filled with ice. To keep the water cold and help the meat continue to thaw, change it every 30 minutes. Larger amounts (three to four pounds) may take two to three hours to thaw, while smaller portions (about a pound) can do so in an hour or less. When thawing whole frozen turkeys, plan on taking about 30 minutes per pound. Once the meat has thawed, we don’t advise freezing it again unless you cook it first. Use your defrosted meat to prepare large quantities of soup and stew recipes!
What’s the fastest way to defrost meat?
You can prepare protein in under 10 minutes if you know how to defrost meat in the microwave. Smaller cuts of meat that will be fully cooked after thawing respond best to this technique, such as chicken breast for a stir-fry or ground beef for tacos. Learn how to defrost a particular cut of meat using your microwave’s settings by consulting the instruction manual. If your microwave doesn’t have a “defrost” setting, run it briefly until the meat is thawed on a lower power setting. But be careful; cooking at a high temperature or for an extended period of time can actually cause the meat to cook rather than defrost. No matter what, cook the meat as soon as it has finished thawing.
Is it ever OK to cook frozen meat?
When you’re really pressed for time, you can cook with frozen meat that hasn’t been thawed. You can safely cook fresh-out-of-the-freezer bricks of ice-cold steak, solid cuts of chicken, and blocks of ground turkey. The meat won’t cook as quickly (by about 50% more time), and it won’t produce skin that is perfectly golden-crisp or seared to perfection. However, even when perfectly thawed protein isn’t available, you always have this option.
Simply avoid cooking frozen meat in a slow cooker because it may take too long to thaw and become unsafe to consume.
Is it OK to thaw meat on the counter?
While there are sources that claim you can thaw frozen meat in hot water or simply leaving it out on the counter, the USDA says this isn’t safe. Any piece of thawed meat should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. If the meat begins to thaw and it becomes warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing may start to multiply.
As an assistant editor for the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Samantha (she/her) writes about delectable recipes, must-try food items, and tried-and-true tips for successful home cooking. Since joining GH in 2020, she has tasted hundreds of products and recipes (a difficult job!). She is a Fordham University alum and believes that her happy place is in the kitchen.
How to Defrost Meat Quickly & Safely
How do you defrost beef in 5 minutes?
It’s best to prepare ahead of time and thaw frozen food in the refrigerator where it will stay at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below. Food can be safely defrosted in three different ways: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.