Everything You Need to Know About Thawing Meat

You stocked up on your favorite meats on sale and froze them in portion-sized packages. Now have your recipe in hand and a freezer full of ground beef, chicken breasts, and other quick-cooking proteins. Now what?

How TF do you take those frozen slabs of meat and transform them into a culinary masterpiece? 

The Tried and True Thawing Method

The absolute best method for defrosting frozen proteins is to transfer them to a metal pan and place them in the refrigerator overnight, or until completely thawed. After it thaws completely, seafood, poultry, and ground meat may be stored in the refrigerator for an extra day or two. Red meat, which includes beef, pork, lamb, and steak may last even longer, up to three to five days.

Bonus: when you thaw meat in the refrigerator, then change your mind on what you want to eat, you can freeze it again safely.

Quick Thaw Tips

What if you’re too hungry to wait? Maybe you need to defrost that steak in a hurry or your chicken breast didn’t thaw completely in the refrigerator. We’re not here to judge. Who are we kidding? Yes we are! But after we do that we’ve got some tips and tricks that will speed up the process so you can defrost any cut quickly and safely.

The Cold Water Method (One Hour)

Coldwater is the easiest and best way to safely defrost meat without a microwave. It’s so easy even you can do it! Just place your frozen meat into a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out extra air, fill a large bowl with cold water, and place the bag in the water. You’ll want to change the water at least every thirty minutes so it stays cold while thawing the meat. This method is great for smaller cuts of meat, especially those under a pound, as they can thaw in an hour or less. Larger cuts, basically anything over three pounds may take three hours or more. A good rule of thumb is to estimate 30 minutes per pound.

The Microwave Method (10 Minutes)

It’s not cheating … well maybe it is. Regardless, it’s easy AF and can make it possible for you to prep the protein in less than 10 minutes. It’s great for smaller cuts of meat that will be cooked all the way through after thawing. Your microwave should have an instruction manual that details the best settings to use when you do this. If your microwave doesn’t have a “defrost” setting, we suggest that you set it at a lower power level and run it in short bursts until the meat is thawed. Just don’t cook it too high or for too long because you’ll actually start the cooking process before you’re ready. One important thing to note with this method is that you’ll need to cook the meat as soon as it’s done thawing.

Cook Without Thawing

So what happens when you don’t have 10 minutes to spare? Truth is, it’s safe to cook your frozen proteins. It’s just a pain and doesn’t taste as good. The meat will take longer to cook and it won’t taste as good (did we already say that?!), but it’s an option. There, we said it!

What About the Counter, or Hot Water, or …?

What? Did Taco Tuesday sneak up on you? While there are sources that claim you can thaw frozen meat in hot water or by leaving it on the counter, the USDA disagrees. And by disagrees, we mean that they say this is unsafe and may cause health issues.

What does that mean to you? Don’t do it!

A Few Tips

  • Don’t thaw frozen meat on a plate. Place it on an aluminum or cast-iron pan. This dramatically reduces your thawing time because metals conduct heat.
  • While you shouldn’t fully thaw meat on the counter (see above), you can get the process jump-started on the counter. Just move it to the refrigerator within 2 hours.
  • Remove frozen seafood from the bag and submerge the protein directly in cold water for up to 10 minutes. Change the water and repeat this process until it is completely thawed.

Have any tips or recipes to share? Post them here!