Oh! Come home and forget to defrost anything for dinner. Grab a package of meat or chicken and quickly defrost it in hot water. But is this safe? What if you remembered to take food out of the refrigerator, but forgot while you were at work and left the package on the counter all day? Neither is considered safe, and these thawing methods may lead to foodborne illness.
Raw or cooked meat, poultry or egg products, as well as any perishable food, must be kept at safe temperatures during thawing. They are safe indefinitely when frozen. However, once they begin to thaw and the temperature exceeds 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 should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Although the center of the package may still be frozen when thawing on the counter, the outer layers of the food may be in the "danger zone," a temperature between 40 and 140°F, where bacteria multiply rapidly.
When thawing frozen foods, it's best to plan ahead and thaw them in the refrigerator to maintain a safe, consistent temperature - 40°F or below.
There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. hurry? It is safe to cook food while frozen.
Because of the length of time required, advance planning is key with this method. Large frozen items like turkey will require at least 24 hours per 5 pounds of weight. Even small amounts of frozen food, such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts, can take a full day to thaw. There are some variables to consider when thawing food in the refrigerator.
- Some areas of the equipment may keep food cooler than other areas.
- Food takes longer to thaw in a refrigerator at 35 °F than in a refrigerator at 40 °F.
After thawing in the refrigerator, foods such as ground meats, stews, poultry, and seafood should remain safe and of good quality for an additional day or two before cooking; red meat cuts (such as beef, pork, or lamb roasts, ribs, and Steak) 3 to 5 days. Food that has been defrosted in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, but some loss in quality may occur.
Cold water thawing
This method is faster than thawing in the refrigerator, but requires more attention. Food must be packed in leak-proof packaging or plastic bags. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment can get into the food. Additionally, the meat tissue may absorb moisture, resulting in a watery product.
The bag should be immersed in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes to allow it to continue thawing. Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood (about one pound) may defrost in an hour or less. Packages weighing 3 to 4 pounds may take 2 to 3 hours. For a whole turkey, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If completely defrosted, food must be cooked immediately.
Food thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
When thawing food in the microwave, plan to cook it immediately after thawing, as some areas of the food may heat up and start cooking during the thawing process (bringing the food to "danger zone" temperatures). It is not recommended to keep food half-cooked as any bacteria present will not be destroyed and, in fact, the food may have reached the optimal temperature for bacterial growth.
After thawing in the microwave, be sure to cook immediately whether cooking in the microwave, conventional oven, or grill.
Food thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
Cook without thawing
When there isn't enough time to thaw frozen food, or you're just in a hurry, remember: It's safe to cook food while frozen. Cooking takes approximately 50% longer than recommended for fully defrosted or fresh meat and poultry.