thawing frozen meat in a hurry

This or That: Thawing Meat in Water or in the Microwave?

You have a yard full of hungry guests, and nothing to grill but frozen meat. What’s the safest, fastest way to thaw?

This or That: Thawing Meat in Water or in the Microwave?

The good news: You have plenty of burgers. The bad news: They're all frozen, and dinner's in five minutes.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—It happens sooner or later to just about everyone who hosts backyard cookouts: You manage to keep on top of dozens and dozens of details, only to find that you didn’t defrost the meat. There are lots of ways to thaw out those burgers, but not all of them are safe. The safest way, of course, is to allow meat to thaw out in the refrigerator. But that can take hours; what do you do when guests are knocking on the door and you’ve got nothing but a pallet of rock-hard beef patties in your freezer? We asked three food-safety experts from the Department of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University, Catherine Cutter, Stephanie Doores and Martin Bucknavage, for their advice.

This: Cold-Water Thawing

Pros: Letting the frozen meat thaw while submerged in cold water is faster than fridge thawing, and like fridge thawing keeps the meat from getting warm enough for germs to grow. And it won’t partially cook the meat the way microwave-thawing can. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a pound of meat or poultry can defrost this way in about an hour.

Cons: This method requires much more attention than microwave or fridge thawing. When you thaw in cold water, you should change the water every 30 minutes, getting rid of the warmed-up water and replacing it with more cold. People often forget to do that, our experts told us. “The temperature of the food surface and thawing water will finally equilibrate to room temperature, when pathogens have the potential to grow,” they note. Furthermore, food must be thawed in a leakproof package or plastic bag, as leaks can expose the food to bacteria, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service.


Published on: June 30, 2009

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Use a plate or pan under

Use a plate or pan under thawing meat to make sure dripping does not spill on foods, especially foods to be eaten without additional cooking. installment loan

Disagree too

Cold water bath might technically be less safe if you leave the water off, but cold water bath is the way to go. Most any restaurant would use cold water bath when quick thawing and as long as the cold water is continuously flowing to keep the water cold, this is the recommended method for quick thawing meat by our local heath inspectors. Of course all bets are off if you don't keep the water flowing, and it wastes a ton of water so you should just remember to take the meat out in the first place.


I have forgotten to thaw dinner more times than I can count, and thawing it under cold, slowly running water works great!
You won't find a microwave in my home. I have no desire to nuke my food.

water temp

I've never understood changing the water every 30 minutes to make sure it's cold. The meat is FROZEN! Of course the water is cold! When I change the water I'm actually changing the cold water out to lukewarm tap water. That is why it thaws quicker. So someone please explain why you would change out "warm" water to "cold" water. IF that was the case the meat would already be thawed out.

thawing meat for barbecue

You could just put the frozen meat on the grill and let it thaw as it cooks, as long as you pre-made the burgers and froze them with wax paper in between them. Or you could just go to the store and buy some more, saving what you had in the freezer for next time when, hopefully, you will remember in time to thaw it in the fridge.

No way!

Every time I have tried to thaw meat in the microwave it always gets a few dry icky cooked spots. The way a microwave cooks the meat (by heating the moisture in it) makes the texture very different than if you, say, grilled it.

If you use the cold water bath method that never happens. One other idea is to put the meat under a steady low stream of cool water from the tap. That keeps it cool, so you don't have to change water like in the bath method. However, I always feel guilty about water wasting when I do this.

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