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
Updated on: March 11, 2010