Lots of defrosting -- need advice
I am having a large gathering tomorrow night (December 23) and over the last few weeks I have created eight (8) different soups to serve. All of them are in large containers and frozen. What would be the best way to defrost all of them so they are hot and simmering by 6 p.m. Wed. evening? I could put them all in the refrigerator this morning -- too early? I'm concerned room temperature thawing is not a wise idea, but I also am try to avoid frantic microwaving an hour before the party begins. None of the soups are creamed based with the exception of one which is a creamy tomato basil and has a small amount of cream stirred in.
Some of the soups will be going into crock pots, and some will be served from the stove top.
Thanks for your help! We have a Festivus party every year and this year I'm playing the role of Soup Nazi.
I regularly make large batches of soup and freeze them into quart containers. If possible, I usually just put them into the refrigerator the day before and they are fully defrosted for the next day. When I decide to have soup on the spot and the container is frozen, I simply put the quart container into a pot that is inverted with a small amount of water and the pot lid on medium flame. when the water becomes steam, it warms up the sides of the containers to melt and releases the soup from the container. This process takes no more than a few minutes. I then reheat the soup on low flame with the cover on and I periodically scrape and chip away the soup from it's mass.
If you can invert your containers into a sauce pot or stock pot, I suggest this is the way you go, even if it means doing it eight separate times. If you use the large stockpot suggestion, just get the frozen soup to a manageable state breaking it up and do not reheat it to a rolling boil. This should help maintain the integrity of the soup.
Personally, I would not worry about defrosting the soup at room temperature for a few hours. Without knowing the size of containers you used, the mass of the solid block will still be frozen , so all you need to do is release it from the container. Eventually, the block will soften and you can break it up into smaller pieces for reheating. When I do my quart sizes from frozen, it usually takes no more than 20 minutes to reach boiling temperature. The quart containers I have are saved from soup purchases from Chinese restaurants to give you an idea of what I am referencing.
I would suggest you reheat the soups fully and transfer them to the crock pots....it may take hours for them to reheat from frozen or liquid state depending on your unit......this could greatly affect your timing.
Room temperature thawing is not recommended by food safety experts. The goal is to get the soup from frozen temperature to the boiling point as quickly as possible. Food borne bacteria grow at the highest rate between 40 and 140 fahrenheit - the "danger zone." Frozen foods (soup, in this case -- it's like a petri dish, very prone to bacterial growth) have already gone through the "danger zone" when being chilled and frozen. That time should be added to the time it takes them to defrost.
Aside from our difference of opinion about the boiling of the soup, I like fourunder's idea of using Chinese restaurant soup containers. It's safer -- the freezing/thawing time is far less for smaller amounts.
For the record, I usually reheat slowly to a gentle simmer for the most part. I never use a thermometer, but I believe the recommended USDA temperature is 165* for leftovers and soup. I suggested not to boil with the tomato soup in mind and in case there were any soups with pasta or noodles....which tend to go to mush when too soft.
This morning is not too early for refrigerator defrosting. You could wait until tomorrow afternoon, then put the frozen containers in the sink or bathtub and let them sit in cold water for a couple of hours. That will be a speedy and safe defrost. So that they don't float, put a sheet pan on top of them and weigh it down with cans or water-filled containers.