The 3 Safe Ways to Thaw Frozen Food

We prefer the following three methods for safe thawing.

August 10, 2017
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Adapted from Polly Conner's and Rachel Tiemeyer's cookbook, From Freezer to Table: 75+ Simple, Whole Foods Recipes for Gathering, Cooking, and Sharing

Freezer cooking pays off over time, but there is a little bit of a learning curve. That’s why we’re aiming to motivate you with the big picture of this lifestyle.

More: 6 No-Fail Steps to Successfully Freeze Meals

Based on our experience, we prefer the following three methods for safely thawing frozen food.

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Thaw in the refrigerator

The most effective and safest way to thaw a freezer meal is to put it in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. The exact thawing time will depend on the size of the meal. Make sure to place it on a plate to catch any condensation or leaks as it thaws.

It’s worth noting that once you have safely thawed your raw or cooked frozen food in the refrigerator, you can still refreeze it if it’s been stored at 40°f or lower. Just keep in mind that there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing.

This method works best when you develop a menu plan at the beginning of the week and then move the freezer meals to the refrigerator a few days ahead of time. But we realize that great planning doesn’t always happen, so there are two faster thawing methods you can use.

More: Apple Raisin Baked French Toast

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Thaw in cold water

Another safe thawing option is to place the food in a leak-proof plastic bag and immerse it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. This still takes a bit of time, but it’s quicker than the refrigerator option. According to the USDA, “small packages of meat, poultry, or seafood—about a pound—may thaw in an hour or less. A 3-to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound.” After using this method of thawing, cook your food immediately.

More: 50 Foods You Should Never Eat

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Thaw in the microwave

The fastest option is to microwave-defrost food in a microwave-safe dish, according to your microwave’s instructions. The reason this is the last option (our least favorite) is because this method can tend to dry out food a bit. Regardless, sometimes you just need to quickly thaw something, so the microwave it is! Make sure to cook your food immediately after using this method as well.

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