There are two things people commonly do to thaw meat – run hot water over it if it is needed right away, or leave it on the counter to thaw gradually. Neither method is considered safe, as it can lead to contaminated food. It’s important to keep it always at 40 degrees or less so that no bacteria grow on it.
So how should meat be thawed? There are three ways to do it safely.
Thawing in the refrigerator keeps it at an even, constant temperature. It requires planning ahead, as it takes more time to thaw. A large piece of meat such as a turkey can take more than two days, and ground meat or individual pieces of chicken will take a day.
Thawing in cold water is a quicker way. It must be put into a leak-proof plastic bag so that no bacteria can get into the food. The bag is placed in cold tap water in the sink or a deep container, changing the water every thirty minutes to keep it cold. It may be necessary to put something heavy on top of the meat so it doesn’t rise out of the water.
Meat can be thawed in a microwave, but should be cooked right after thawing because some of it may start to cook while it is thawing.
There is also the option of cooking meat without thawing it. It will take about 50% longer to cook.