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Defrosting meat on the counter?

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  1. Oops--hit enter too quickly to explain myself. My husband took hamburgers out of the freezer this am before work and put them on the counter instead of in the refrigerator to defrost. Neither one of us will be home until later today. We should throw these out, right?

    8 Replies
    1. re: jrmd

      I'm a counter defroster myself. I know...bad, but I'm still alive.

      When you get home feel them...if they are warm, I wouldn't use them (or if you do, cook them really, really well) But if they are still cool to the touch, I'd use them.

      1. re: jrmd

        I too use the counter top, now granite to defrost. That sounds like an awfully long time for ground meat to be sitting on the counter. I would have reservations about using it but given the fact that E. Coli contaminated meat is sold to restaurants that will cook it completely, I guess you could cook it until it's well done as long as it doesn't have an off smell.

        1. re: jrmd

          It's fine. Eat it. I know this goes against the grain, but as a 70's child who's Mom ALWAYS defrosted the meat on the counter while she was at her 8+ hour job as a nurse and who NEVER got food poisoning (sorry-run on sentence--I know). You'll be fine. Don't waste meat while 'people in ______ are starving" :)

          1. re: diablo

            Diablo is right - my mother always defrosted meat on the counter and so I do and haven't gotten sick from it. Only I have to put mine in the microwave so the cats don't sample it first! And I have left ground meat in the refrigerator for 2-3 days after it was defrosted before I used it and have not had problems.

            1. re: diablo

              My mom did the same and I am perfectly fine...BUT the strains of bacteria present today are much stronger than the ones around when we were kids.

              I say, when in doubt, throw it out.

            2. re: jrmd

              Despite what the blithe spirits say, you're right. Toss it.

              1. re: mpalmer6c

                I also defrost meat on the counter, but I wouldn't do it with hamburger/ground meat.

              2. re: jrmd

                First, i'd toss the burgers. Meat starts to rot the minute it's ground. Therefore, you should consider grinding your own hamburger from chuck steak. The safest, tastiest way to go.

              3. I lived with an African family who had recently immigrated to Canada. The mother would put a whole raw chicken, not frozen in the sink-overnight. The first time I saw the chicken in the sink I laughed so hard, she had crossed the chickens legs and it looked like it was lounging or relaxing in the sink or something. Anyways, that family never gets sick. I guess thats how some people do it in Africa with no refrigerators!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cookiepants

                  I know this is a total No! No! But I admit, I do this as well. I will also soak chicken in cold water exemption of ground beef. When it is defrosted, I do put it in the refrigerator, If I am not cooking it right away, after it defrosts.

                2. Great topic! I too defrost on the counter and also throw chicken breasts in cold water. I have read that you should defrost in the fridge, but it can take DAYS!

                  1. I also always defrost on the counter (and out of the way of my german shepherd who can reach everything). Haven't killed anyone yet - but surely it depends on the weather and temperature of your house.

                    1. Actually I defrost on metal, preferably a cast-iron skillet, because it improves heat transfer. But what you cited is a long time to leave meat out.

                      1. Generally, its not good to defrost meat on the counter top for too long. The truth is, bacteria in meat multiplies quickly at room temperature. Just because you don't feel very ill after eating meat that was defrosted on the counter top does not mean the your body isn't working harder at fighting off the bacteria. To minimize the time it takes to defrost meat, it might be good to try using the Ice Beam Jr Far-Infrared Bio Defroster Defrosting Plate. I can't guarantee that it is a better way to defrost meat, as I haven't read studies on using this method for defrosting.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: elizabethfaraone

                          Don't bother wasting your money with those seen on TV defrosting things. You get the same effect with a metal pan or your sink.

                          1. re: Sooeygun

                            What do you need a metal pan for? What is the benefit of having a "defroster defrosting plate"?

                            1. re: lilmomma

                              A metal pan helps the frozen item to thaw more quickly. Think of it this way: when you put an ice cube in a cup of water, the water cools a slight bit as the ice cube melts. It reaches an equilibrium point. If you take the amount of crushed ice as the ice cube and put it in a cup of water, it melts even more quickly while cooling the water a bit because there is a greater surface area for the heat to flow between the ice and the water.

                              Placing frozen meat on a heavy pan has the same effect. The larger the surface area, the greater the heat transfer. Putting it on granite or tile isn't as fast because they are poor conductors of heat. Some of those plates have short legs that allow air to flow underneath. This increases the surface area.

                              You can try this by placing an ice cube on a pan versus on the counter. The ice will melt faster in the pan.

                        2. i'm a counter defroster too, shhhhh don't tell! that said, i do it with cuts of meat, not ground, or fowl. fowl i do in the fridge or in sink of iced water, cuts of fowl would have been vacuum bagged before freezing. ground meat i wouldn't trust as far as i can throw after 2 hours out at room temp.

                          thanks for making me think about how i do things.

                          1. I've always defrosted meat on the counter. So did my mom & both my grandmas. Yes I am aware of how many strains of bacteria are around, but typically I fully cook any meat that has been frozen & defrosted. High enough heat will kill the nasties.
                            Defrosted ground beef can turn a nasty color, but still be just fine. Personally I would cook it & eat it, but if you're at all hesitant then toss it. Totally a personal choice.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jcattles

                              I've done it too and so did my mother and grandmother. For ground meat if I can't defrost in the fridge I will nuke it lightly and then toss on the granite counter. In less than 30 min it's thawed. Sure bacteria can grow in that amount of time but it's a short window and I grind my own meat before freezing.

                              With bacteria it's not always the germs themselves which is killed with heat but the toxins the produce which are not removed by cooking.

                            2. The problem with asking food safety questions on CH is that there are always some people who will defend questionable practices. You could have left your meat all day on asphalt in the blazing sun on the hottest day of the year with vultures swooping down, and yet there will be people who will say that it's perfectly fine to eat. The typical argument they make is that they haven't gotten sick from doing it, which is not to say that if they keep doing it, they won't. I prefer to be more conservative about food safety. If leaving meat to thaw in the refrigerator takes too long for you, you can put it in the sink under cold running water or else defrost it in the microwave.