Does an Aluminum Surface Thaw Food Faster?

published May 13, 2015
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(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

As much as we all probably strive to plan ahead and make getting dinner on the table easy and stress-free, let’s face it: it doesn’t always happen, even with the best of intentions. Even if you’ve got a freezer stocked full of meat, you can’t do much with it until it’s defrosted.

And while the best place to thaw is in the refrigerator, what happens when you forgot to do it and dinner has to happen soon? We read this tip about making foods thaw faster and we had to give it a try!

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

The Original Tip

The theory is that some surfaces are better to thaw on than others. Specifically, metals, like aluminum and stainless steel, will defrost food faster than stone or wooden surfaces. Why? These metals absorb ambient heat and transfer it to the food, speeding thawing. There are even special defrosting boards sold that are made out of these materials.

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(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

The Testing Method

To test this theory, I froze two 1/2-inch-thick pork chops solid, then transferred one pork chop to an aluminum baking sheet and the second to a stoneware plate.

I placed both the plate and the aluminum baking sheet side-by-side on my kitchen counter and checked on them every 15 minutes until it was defrosted and not hard in the center anymore.

The Results

After just 1 hour, the pork chop on the aluminum baking sheet was completely thawed but still cold to the touch. The pork chop on the stoneware plate, however, took 45 minutes longer to reach the same consistency. It was quite a significant time difference!

Verdict: This is a mind-blowing tip!

Final Notes

I was pleasantly surprised by how much speedier just using the right surface for defrosting can be, and apparently it doesn’t matter if it’s a frying pan or baking sheet or tray — it should just be made of aluminum or stainless steel.

Is thawing this way safe? The USDA only recommends three methods of thawing: refrigerator, cold water, or microwave. For the latter, they also say that the food should be cooked immediately after thawing. Countertop defrosting, like what I did here, is not recommended since the outside of food can be defrosted and warm up to unsafe temperatures where bacteria can grow rapidly while the middle is still frozen.

For this test, I did the countertop defrosting since I wanted to see the results quickly. To put this tip to practical use while still practicing food safety, thaw food in the refrigerator on aluminum or stainless steel to speed things up.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how long it takes to thaw frozen shrimp with this method rather than running them under cold water and wasting water. It’ll also be interesting to see how well thicker cuts of frozen meat fare on these surfaces, too. From now on, all defrosting will be done on my baking sheets!