Food Safety 101: How to Defrost Frozen Meat

updated May 31, 2020
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

With the USDA ground beef recall fresh on our minds, we are brushing up on our own food handling practices.

Do you know how long you can leave that potato salad on your buffet before it needs to go back in the fridge? How about the right way to thaw frozen meats?

If you’re not so sure, no worries: we’re doing a Food Safety 101 course the rest of this week to keep you and your guests happy and healthy. To answer our questions about food safety we turned to a standard culinary school textbook: ServSafe Coursebook, Fourth Edition published by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

We already talked a little bit about how long you can leave cooked food unrefrigerated, and now we’re looking at the best and safest way to defrost frozen meat.

Thawing Frozen Meats (and no, leaving it on the counter isn’t one of them!):

The absolute best way to thaw frozen meats is by leaving it in the fridge until it’s completely thawed. If you’re crunched for time, take the meat out of it’s package, put it on a plate, and place it under cool RUNNING water. This carries away any bacteria that is already present or that grows on the surface of the meat and gently thaws the meat in about 20 minutes (for small cuts) or an hour or two (for large cuts).

You can also safely thaw meat in the microwave, though be careful since your microwave can actually start to cook the meat before it’s completely thawed.

More on food safety
• The Five Second Rule
• USDA Ground Beef Recall
• Where’s the Safe Beef?
• The Conscientious Cook: The Farm Bill Food Battle
• Text Message for Safe Fish

This is by Emma, who is up for one of our new writer positions. Welcome Emma!