Safe Thawing Instructions for Frozen Meat
All meats are safe indefinitely while they are frozen. Frozen is frozen! Forget something in the back of the freezer - just check to see if its freezer burnt. We don't recommend loosing things in the back of the freezer but ya know none of us are perfect. It is perfectly safe to cook meat directly out of the freezer — but not always the best method. It just takes about 50% longer. There are other reasons to work with thawed meats instead, including faster cooking, more even cooking (especially on the grill), and the ability to apply seasonings or use marinades early on in the cooking process. You will have a better product if you thaw your meat before cooking!
Methods for Thawing Frozen Meat, Beef, Pork, Ground Beef, Turkey, Chicken, and more:
Here are three of our favorite, safe, and health official recommended methods for thawing frozen meat: (1) in the refrigerator, (2) in cold water, and (3) in the microwave (not our favorite, but hey life happens and we've all needed to thaw something fast)! Let's look at each in detail.
Put It In The ’fridge!
Thawing frozen meat in the refrigerator is the most recommended method by health officials. It does require that you plan your meal ahead. We decided what we would like to eat for dinner and get it out of the freezer in the morning. Smaller amounts of frozen meat — a pound of ground meat (including ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork, etc.) or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day in the refrigerator to thaw. Larger frozen meat items — roasts, prime rib, tri tip, brisket, ham, turkeys, chickens — require at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, the temperature matters. Variations in temperature as your refrigerator cycles on and off can add to thawing time.
Items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, and seafood, remain safe up to 2 days after thawing in the refrigerator. Red meat cuts — beef, pork, burgers, steaks, lamb, goat — remain safe up to 3 days.
Meats thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking. This is possible but we do not recommend it at all. After you thaw it we highly recommend cooking the meat to get the best possible product.
Put the packaged meat in a container to catch any drips and place it on the lowest shelf with no other foods (raw or cooked) under it.
Cold Water Bath
If you forgot to plan ahead — it happens (more often than we like to admit)! — meats may be thawed more quickly in a cold water bath, with a little attention. This really works best for vacuumed sealed packages. If the meat is not vacuums sealed then you can transfer to a sealable, leak-proof plastic bag (like a zip lock). It's imperative to seal the meat in a closed container because bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food through the water, resulting in an inferior product. Completely submerge the sealed bag in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
Small packages of meat may thaw in an hour or less. Roasts or whole chickens may take up to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound.
If thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately. Do not refreeze foods thawed by the cold water bath method without cooking.
Place the meat in a container four times the size of the cut for good circulation. Full the container with cool water (below 70 degrees) and change the water every 30-40 minuets.
Microwave Thawing (least recommended)
If you choose to thaw your meat in a microwave, think of it as part of a pre-cooking process. It is the riskiest defrosting method, save it for when you are in a pinch. Plan to cook your meat immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may begin to cook during mircrowaving. Do not wait to cook your meat until later if you use this method. This would be comparable to thawing meat in a warm water bath (you MUST cook it immediately).
Do not hold microwaved meat in the refrigerator because there will likely be portions of the meat that have reached optimal temperatures (above 40 degrees) for bacteria to grow (i.e. its temperature has increased). Always cook immediately after thawing in a microwave. Foods thawed in the microwave must be fully cooked before refreezing.
Use short bursts of the defrost setting on your microwave, turn the meat frequently, and cook immediately.
More health official safety tips for thawing frozen meat:
DO NOT thaw meats on the counter or in hot water. We know your grandma and your mom did/do it. We do it too, but its not recommended. If your a pro - do your thing. If your nervous or new to defrosting meat - stay with the refrigerator option!
DO NOT leave meat at room temperature for more than two hours! Be especially vigilant in the hotter summer months!
DO NOT thaw meat in an area that is not sanitary and clean.
Can You Cook Frozen Ground Beef, Meat, Poultry, and Pork?
Yes! It is perfectly safe to cook meats from frozen. Cooking time will be approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry. We don't recommend this for optimal flavor but it is SAFE.
Remembering to defrost your beef and pork will become habitual as you become a loyal customer!
For more information on thawing, visit the USDA website.