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Mar 23, 2012 12:10 PM

Thawing frozen meat in hot water

I've heard that thawing frozen meat in hot water is a bad idea, and my husband always freaks out when I do it, like he's going to die or something. I've done this many many times before without a problem. I am horrible at preplanning dinner and about 75% of the time figure out dinner plans on my way home from work, then pull out the frozen meat and put it in hot water (packaged). I don't leave it for more than 30 minutes Sometimes I thaw it in the microwave if it is still a tad frozen. How bad is this, really?

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  1. If you are going to thaw something using water, the water must be running and should be below 70 degrees according to safety guidelines. If you hot water thaw stuff eventually you will make someone sick. If you are thawing it and cooking it immediately its not TERRIBLE, but its still not good. If you use hot water then try to hold the thawed product for more than 6 hours, its pretty bad.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Very interesting. I only thaw things like chicken breast, bacon and ground meat. I would never thaw a roast this way. I'm showing him this article, thanks a ton! And yes, I always cook it immediately after thawing. Also, after about 15 minutes or so I drain and add more fresh hot water.

        1. re: Mojave

          I don't do roasts, but the ground meat would be the one I would not thaw that way. There are way too many nooks and crannies in the ground meat for bacteria to gain a toe hold due to temperature differences. With steaks, not much gets beyond the surface, and then that is cooked directly. Chicken would be OK I assume as long as you wash it thoroughly. Bacon should be easy since it is so thin.

          1. re: ocshooter

            The safety issue has more to do with how long it takes to thaw the piece of meat, rather than to the 'nooks and crannies'. According to the article if it takes 10-20 minutes to thaw the meat, there isn't a safety issue. Even if it is in the optimal bacteria growth temperature range, there isn't enough time for dangerous growth. The problem with a roast (or a whole bird) is that it still needs hours, long enough to grow bacteria at the warm surface.

            The nooks-and-crannies of ground meat just means there might be some bacteria in the interior of the meat package at the start of the thawing time. Bacteria on the surface is an issue regardless of whether it is ground meat, a steak or a roast. That is why you want to limit the potential growth time, regardless of the thawing method.

            1. re: paulj

              I understand, but if there is a small amount of growth with ground beef, it has a much, much greater chance of surviving the cooking process because there is so much surface area, and the bacteria may end up inside whatever is cooked. With a whole cut, the exposed surface area is the part that is subject to the highest levels of heat.

              1. re: ocshooter

                Are you immunocompromised? If not, you're worrying way too much.

      2. I don't see why it would be a problem at all.

        1. I've done it the New York Times way mentioned above for years without a problem. Don't know why a roast wouldn't be possible, since a water bath is one of the recommended ways to thaw a turkey. I just wouldn't use hot water.

          1. Cooks Illustrated tested the NYT method and here is what they say about it.
            To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria when thawing frozen meat, we use one of two methods: We defrost thicker (1 inch or greater) cuts in the refrigerator and place thinner cuts on a heavy cast-iron or steel pan at room temperature, where the metal’s rapid heat transfer safely thaws the meat in about an hour. But a recent article by food scientist Harold McGee in the New York Times alerted us to an even faster way to thaw small cuts—a method that’s been studied by and won approval from the USDA: Soak cuts such as chops, steaks, cutlets, and fish fillets in hot water.

            Following this approach, we sealed chicken breasts, steaks, and chops in zipper-lock bags and submerged the packages in very hot (140-degree) water. The chicken thawed in less than eight minutes, the other cuts in roughly 12 minutes—both fast enough that the rate of bacterial growth fell into the “safe” category, and the meat didn’t start to cook. (Large roasts or whole birds are not suitable for hot thawing because they would need to be in the bath so long that bacteria would proliferate.) Note: The chicken breasts turned slightly opaque after thawing. Once cooked, however, the hot-thawed breasts and other cuts were indistinguishable from cold-thawed meat.