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Defrosting meat

Do you always defrost meat in refrigerator as opposed to leaving it out on counter or in sink of ice water? Defrosting the correct way requires such advance planning if using meat from freezer!

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  1. I'm not going to lie. I defrost on the counter overnight frequently. Never in my life had I had food poisoning. However, I wouldn't do this during hot summer days/nights.

    1. I defrost it quickly in the microwave. But, back in the days before microwaves, I thawed it on the counter. Where our large Collie dog sometimes found it and ate it. Burp.

      1. all depends on timing as needed, ideally fridge then a few hours on counter then running water at the last minute if still frosty (we're on a deep well and septic tank - so it just goes back into the groundwater)

        but 5 or 6 hours in a mild room is not likely to cause problems. if it's decent to begin with just keep it sealed up and away from large Collies and you should be OK. I'd be more worried about flies or Collies than bacteria.

        1. I just throw it on the counter. No one has died yet.

          1. As a kid (YEARS AGO), we always put frozen meat on drain board of sink to defrost... note in kitchen from Dad... take chicken out of freezer before ya leave for school... do this/that with it when you get home from school. Nobody ever got "sick" that I can remember?

            I'm cooking for 1 so most meat items are in 1-2 serving packages in freezer... vac sealed with yard sale Foodsaver. Most items are thawed and ready to cook after only about 20-30 minutes in a big container of room temp water.

            1. Unless it's somethin' like a twenty-five pound turkey, I'm an "on the counter" guy.

              1. Depends--for something small (like a pound of chicken thighs), I use Harold McGee's hot water method--done in 15 minutes or less. If I actually know ahead of time, I'll do the day-or-two in the fridge method. And for a big piece of meat (e.g. pork shoulder), it's DAYS in the fridge (I typically have to add an extra day or two to the estimated times).

                1. Both. On the weekend, I take out all my meat I will use for the week, from the freezer. Put it in the meat drawer in the bottom of the fridge.

                  For the first few days, when meat is still frozen solid, I unthaw on the counter during the day. The last few days of the week, the meat is almost thawed and can be used with just a quick water thaw. Same with frozen sauces and stocks, they go into the same drawer to start thawing.

                  I guess I have never thought it was any big planning....more like an "outline" for planning dinner. I know what proteins I have, want to use up, feel like, etc even though I might not know what dish to make yet.

                  Counter thawing is perfectly fine IME and IMO.

                  1. If you have stone counter tops, it will thaw even faster.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                      Almost always in a cold water bath. Defrosts rather quickly since I usually fail to plan ahead. Anything going into the freezer is as flat as possible to speed up thawing time.

                    2. Never on the counter as is. Put it on a metal pan or metal cake rack to speed defrosting. But I usually submerge the package in cold water, which works a lot better and faster, while keeping the surface of the meat colder than room air would.

                      1. My All Clad aluminum griddle defrosts meat in record time.

                        If I am aware enough I start overnight in fridge and finish on the griddle

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          I have a large galvanized aluminum griddle that I use for defrosting - it just pulls the cold out of everything!

                          1. re: Scribbler

                            +1 on the aluminum. I have a 5/8" slab ( a scupper cutout from a boatyard) that I use as a defrost trivet. Amazingly fast.

                        2. I try to defrost in the refrigerator. However, like you said, sometime I don't plan ahead and need to defrost the meat (in a plastic bag) in a sink of water, not even ice water.

                          1. If its turkey, I have to defrost it in ice water in an ice chest basically. If its something like chicken thighs or cube steak, its on the counter. Anything in between is probably going to go straight from the freezer into the pressure cooker and just be cooked that way. (I even do hot dogs that way, the pressure cooker gets them nicely hot and evenly cooked, ready to be put on a bun.)

                            1. Meat that goes into my freezer is vacuum-packed as flat as possible using a Foodsaver, so it's convenient to defrost in water. It defrosts quite quickly because water provides good heat transfer. I'll usually put the container in the fridge.

                              My mother used to defrost meat in an old meat safe -- a cupboard with screen doors to keep the flies off. We lived in the tropics with no air conditioning (I don't think I'd ever even heard of air conditioning) so it's a little scary thinking back about meat sitting in that meat safe with the ambient temperature at 100F or more.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: drongo

                                I also use a Foodsaver (which I swear by). I have defrosted on a paper plate either in the fridge overnight or on the counter for a few hours. Never had any food poisoning from that. Maybe because it's sealed so well.

                              2. Microwave. 2 power for 25 minutes for ~1# of ground beef. Extrapolate from there for different weights.

                                1. Usually I go the counter route or the "last minute in the sink" route. Sometimes the microwave. Rarely in the fridge.

                                  1. Thank you all for great advice as always and for easing my guilt and worry over not always defrosting meat in the fridge!

                                    1. Usually defrost on the counter overnight.

                                      1. Here is a good defrosting tip, for flat meats that is, such as steaks and chops. Put the frozen meat on an aluminum half sheet pan. Move the meat to a warmer spot every 20 minutes or so. The sheetpan draws the cold out of the meat and it will defrost in less than half the time if just left on the counter, sink, or plate of some sort.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: John E.

                                          I have granite counters, so when I'm defrosting things, I move them every 30 minutes or so.

                                          1. re: LaureltQ

                                            I bet works great. That sounds like a good enough reason to get new countertops.

                                            1. re: LaureltQ

                                              I do the same thing. Also works really well when trying to cool down liquids before refrigerating.

                                            2. re: John E.

                                              I use this method BUT use a stainless steel pan. It works er, I turn package over when 1st. side is soft.

                                              1. re: Oonasheila

                                                I wonder if there is a difference between using aluminum or stainless steel? In this case, my guess is there would be no noticeable difference.

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  as long as it's heavy, I'd assume the difference to be negligible.

                                            3. I always do it in a sink full of cold water.

                                              1. I've been thawing in large bowls of hot water for years! No problems...and I was delighted to get support for my habit from the NY Times!

                                                1. I put the meat in a ziplock bag and make sure it is totally closed and fill up a big pasta pot with cold water and change the water every 45 minutes with more cold water...I mostly defrost frozen ground turkey, steaks and boneless chicken breasts and other chicken pieces and it usually works with about 3-4 changes of the water depending on the meat density.

                                                  1. I'm defrosting chicken wings in my cast iron skillet right now. Works great in an hour or so.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: guitargirlcbr

                                                      How do you go about thawing in your cast iron skillet? Does that cause the wings to 'cook' at all?

                                                      1. re: Awwshucks

                                                        No, I don't use any heat. I just put the food in its packaging in the skillet. The cast iron absorbs the cold f rom the meat, diffusing it into the room. You just have to turn the food over a few times. There's an as-seen-on-TV thing called the Miracle Thaw Defrosting Tray that is cast aluminum and is sold just for that purpose. Aluminum works even better than cast iron, but I don't have any aluminum pans.

                                                        1. re: guitargirlcbr

                                                          Thanks for that tip! I will give it a try!

                                                          1. re: guitargirlcbr

                                                            I had one of those several years ago -- it worked admirably fast, especially on thin things like chicken breasts and pork chops.

                                                            Mine had the aluminum tray, and it sat inside a slightly larger plastic box into which you poured lukewarm water to speed the "wicking" process. It even had a clear plastic lid, so things weren't open to the air.

                                                            I purged it in a major move, and once in a while wish I still owned it.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              We had a 'defrosting tray' that was a hunk of aluminum, but less elaborate than yours. We too got rid of it in a move and do not miss it because an aluminum half sheet pan works just as well as what we previosly had.

                                                        2. re: guitargirlcbr

                                                          I do this as well to defrost meat. It has something to do with the black surface I've been told. No matter what it is, it works.

                                                        3. I try to keep thawing times shortened by making packages as thin as possible. For chicken, I put individual pieces in sandwich bags which then go into freezer bags and make sure they're in a single layer. I can grab as many portions as I need for a meal that way!
                                                          Ground meats go in quart-bags, about 1 lb each; squished to about 1" thick and excess air 'burped' out. These can be thawed quickly in the fridge or on the counter.
                                                          To thaw other cuts, I generally put the bags inside a pan of cold water and change it frequently. Whole chickens get similar treatment.
                                                          Sometimes I use the microwave, but I don't care for that so much as the meat might begin to cook around the edges and you have to put foil over those areas to prevent that. (I don't waste cooked areas, tho. I will trim them off and let my dog eat them!)

                                                          1. When I lack time for a fridge defrost, I make sure the item is sealed watertight and then put it in one half of my double sink. Then I keep a slow pour of cold water going. The sink is designed to overflow into the next sink before going onto the counter, so I just keep the drain open on that other sink. I've heard that this perpetual water motion offers some convection effect to speed the thawing.

                                                            1. Depends on what I'm defrosting. I have a pork butt in the fridge that's been there for a couple of days. If it's some thing smaller, its usually a combo of counter than water bath to speed things up. Depending on how warm it is. Cooking for a toddler, so I'm trying to be a little bit safer these days

                                                              1. I prefer the cold water/sink method for most things