We do our best to plan ahead and let meat thaw slowly in the fridge. But sometimes a mood strikes or company drops by, and we just need to get a frozen chicken breast or a few steaks thawed, pronto! When this happens, here's a shortcut for getting that meat quickly skillet-ready.
Letting meat thaw in the refrigerator is the absolute best method because the meat is never in the temperature danger zone where bacteria grows quickly (41° - 135°). The meat also has more time to re-absorb the ice crystals that formed between the fibers.
But when this slower method isn't possible, here's what we do:
Unwrap the frozen meat and place it in a bowl big enough to hold it. Place the bowl with the meat under gentle running water in the sink. The water should be slightly cool to the touch.
Leave the meat under the water until it has completely thawed. For a thin chicken breast or a few sausages, this usually takes about 20 minutes. Larger cuts of meat can take about an hour. Don't leave the meat out for more than four hours. Sanitize the sink after removing the meat.
Of course, this does take a lot of water, but this method is safer than simply letting meat thaw on the counter because the running water keeps the temperature regulated and also prevents bacteria from growing on the surface of the meat. Meat also thaws much quicker this way, so it's not in the temperature danger zone for too long (i.e., more than four hours).
We also prefer this method over microwave thawing, which always seems to start cooking the outside of the meat before the middle is completely thawed.
How do you usually thaw meat?
This method is approved by the National Restaurant Association and outlined in the ServSafe Coursebook.