Tips and Do’s And Don’ts On Thawing Your Food

This is part of a series on How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

There are best, good, and bad ways to thaw foods. Here are the tips.

Revised July 30, 2020 – Originally published June 1, 2020 Deborah Esplin

Cupcakes on a tray.

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Thawing Do’s & Don’ts

There are different ways to thaw your food and some are better and safer than others. Here we look at the options and the best ways to thaw your raw or cooked foods.

Thawing in the Refrigerator

The number one best way to thaw all frozen food is in the refrigerator. This way, the food stays cold while it thaws, and there is no risk of bacterial growth while it is thawing. Most foods will thaw in 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. However, a large turkey or container of soup or stew may take 3 or more days.

The trick is that you have to plan in order to pull food out of the freezer for it to have enough time to thaw in the refrigerator. It may happen sometimes, as it happens with me, that you don’t always plan far enough in advance and it is panic time. 3 PM and, ‘What am I making for dinner?’ Help. You may end up thawing the food you want to cook a couple of hours before you need to start the meal prep. This is where the other thawing methods come into the picture.

Thawing Under Running Cool Water

The second best way to thaw is to put your food under cool, running water, or in a bowl of cool water. You do not want to use hot water because it could cook raw food and cause containers to crack or break. Cool water will thaw food just as fast.

Run the cool water for a minute or so, then let the food sit for a couple of minutes, then run cool water again. Because you need to keep applying the cool water, but you don’t want to run the water from your tap non-stop for 10 or minutes, putting the food in a bowl to thaw is best. This method is just as safe as thawing in the fridge as long as you cook the food as soon as it is thawed or you put it back into the refrigerator. Also, this method is fast. Most foods will be thawed in thirty to forty-five minutes.

This method works for most items, except the really big, bulky ones like a turkey. There you are stuck. If you do not pull it out in time to thaw in the refrigerator, you should change your meal plan, because there is no other safe way to thaw big, bulky items.

Thawing in the Microwave

This is the third-best way to thaw food, but using the microwave is tricky, especially for raw foods. They tend to cook during the thawing process in the microwave. I have a defrost cycle on my microwave, but I find that it is still too strong. I will defrost for a couple of minutes, then give the food a five-minute rest, then repeat the process.

Thawing cooked food is less tricky in the microwave and generally works well, as long as the food is in a type of container that can go in the microwave. For example, glass or frozen meals that state the food can be put in the microwave. But, if I buy soup in a plastic container, as an example, and need to thaw it fast, it is not good to put the single-use container into the microwave. It was not made for that purpose. In that case, I would thaw the soup under running water. Make sure that any container you put in the microwave does not contain metal and is intended for use in microwaves.

There are two goals when thawing food: 1-keep it cool so bacteria do not grow (food safety); 2-defrost slowly so the edges of the food do not cook or burn (food quality).

The Wrong Way To Thaw Food

The worst and most dangerous way to thaw food is by leaving it on the counter. The outside of the food thaws and bacteria can start to grow while the inside is still frozen. If there are a lot of bacteria, the food can become dangerous to eat, even after cooking. Do not thaw food this way. Please. The other three methods work fine and water thawing is fast.

The best way to avoid thawing raw food in a hurry just before dinner is to plan ahead and have cooked meals ready in your freezer. Then you can pull out the raw food for the next evening’s meal and pull out a ready-cooked meal for the immediate evening.

Thawing Your Food Tips Summary

    1. Time frames for thawing food.
    2. The best method for thawing: in the fridge.
    3. The second best method for thawing: running under cool water.
    4. Last method: using the microwave with tips for doing that.
    5. Warning about not leaving food on the counter to thaw.
    6. Put thawed food back in the fridge, if you won’t cook it right away.

Check out my companion video on this topic:

Here is a link to the next blog post in the series: How Long Can You Store Fresh Food.

Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.

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