Forget to move the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator the day before you want to use it for dinner? Whatever you do don't leave a frozen package of beef, chicken, or fish out on the counter to thaw. By the time the meat thaws, the outside will have entered the so-called "danger zone," a temperature range where bacteria breeds rapidly. The result is ugly: potential food-borne illness. Instead, there are a couple different, safer ways to thaw frozen meat.
- If you're planning ahead: Transfer the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator. Most cuts will thaw within 24 hours; larger items like a whole roast chicken, turkey, or duck, or a large cut like pork shoulder may take up to three days.
- If you need it thawed fast: Transfer the meat to a resealable plastic bag (or keep it in its original packaging if its airtight). Set a mixing bowl that's larger than the piece of meat in the sink, add the meat, and fill the bowl with cool water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that it stays cold enough to keep the meat in a safe temperature zone. If you need it thawed even faster (in less than an hour), try running a slow trickle of room-temperature water into the bowl. This isn't USDA approved, but we've done this in a pinch, and view it to be safe as long as you cook the meat shortly after thawing.