The holidays are over; the kids are back in school and are ready to eat the minute you get in from work. Uh, Oh! You forgot to defrost something for dinner. You grab a package of meat or chicken and use hot water to thaw if fast. But is this safe?
The answer is No! Food must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” Foods are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as food begins to defrost and become warmer than 40 degrees, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow and multiply.
Foods should never be thawed or even stored on the counter, or defrosted in hot water. Food left un-refrigerated is not at a safe temperature. When defrosting frozen foods, it’s best to plan ahead and thaw food in the refrigerator where food will remain at a safe and constant temperature. We are not always so organized and often find ourselves at work wondering what might be in that freezer for a quick meal.
There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Planning ahead is the key to thawing in the refrigerator because of the length of time required. Place meats in a pan or plate so that any liquids will not contaminate other items in the refrigerator as the meats thaw. Cold water thawing is faster than thawing in the refrigerator but does require more attention. The foods must be in a leak proof package or plastic bag. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small packages of meat should defrost in an hour or less. Be sure to cook the meat immediately after thawing. Microwave thawing is the final approved method to defrost food items. The defrosting of meat in the microwave is considered part of the cooking process. Meat and poultry need to continue cooking thoroughly after they have been thawed in the microwave.
Remember to keep your foods safe during “the big thaw.”