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Food & Recipes

This Is the One Place in Your Kitchen Where You Should Never Thaw Frozen Meat

There's a safe and easy way to do it quickly.


Keeping your favorite cuts of meat in the freezer is a great way to make sure you always have protein on-hand for dinner. But when you’re ready to cook it, you might be picking the worst place to let that meat thaw out: the kitchen counter. Yes, the same surface where you keep your coffee maker and toaster is not ideal for defrosting these frozen items.

Instead, there are some simple (and quick) ways to properly thaw out meat so you can safely enjoy all of those delicious meals you planned.

Why You Shouldn’t Defrost Meat on Your Counter

According to the USDA, meat or (any perishable foods) shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria can grow on the food and make it unsafe to eat, even if you cook it later on. Depending on the meat’s thickness and how much you plan on cooking, it could take more than two hours at room temperature for all the ice crystals to dissipate. So, resting frozen meat on the counter is definitely not the way to go.

Following proper guidelines when it comes to thawing meat means that you won’t get sick with food poisoning and have those painful post-meal stomachaches. Using a few simple tips for defrosting frozen meat will make it safer, whether you need to add some lean protein to your meals or you’re looking to unleash your inner carnivore and make your diet more effective than keto.

How to Thaw Meat

If you have time to spare, always thaw frozen items in the fridge. This will keep meat cold while it defrosts and prevent any bacteria growth. It could take hours or even overnight to completely thaw out, but it’s the safest option. Just be sure to cook the meat within one to two days of thawing it in the fridge.

In a hurry and need to thaw meat in as little as 10 minutes? Well, America’s Test Kitchen has the perfect method, using a pot of water on the stove. Just whip out an instant read thermometer to make sure that the water is heated at exactly 140 degrees — the sweet spot to prevent it from cooking.

Keep your frozen meat in its plastic bag before you place it in the water so that you can easily remove it from the pot. But don’t walk away from the pot — chicken should just take about 10 minutes to thaw and other types of meat should only take about 12 minutes. Experts also warn against leaving the meat submerged in water for longer than 45 minutes.

Check out more of America’s Test Kitchen’s advice and additional safety tips in the video below.

Your microwave is another great tool since it has a defrosting feature which is safe for meat and poultry. Check the manual first to see the recommended way to thaw meats based on the model. In most cases, it’s best to microwave it in intervals (such as 30 seconds or one minute) until the meat is completely thawed. You should only use this method if you’re planning on cooking it right away, though, as the heat from the microwave might start to warm or slightly cook certain areas of the meat.

These simple tips will make your weeknight cooking habits so much easier. Thawing meat the correct way can be quicker than expected and allow you to safely enjoy it in whatever dish you make.

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