How to Defrost Meat

Here’s how to defrost meat quickly, properly, safely, easily, and without a microwave. The same advice also applies to how to defrost fish.

How to Thaw Meat Quickly

The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook | Victory Belt Publishing, 2015

How to defrost meat quickly, safely, easily, and properly is perhaps one of the biggest conundrums standing between many home cooks and putting supper on the table. Here’s the best technique to thaw meat fast without a microwave. The same advice also applies to how to defrost fish. It’s excerpted from The Homegrown Paleo, a collection of everyday lessons that essentially encompasses just about everything your grandparents needed to know to subsist off the land.—Renee Schettler Rossi

Each week, I take a bunch of meat from our freezer and place it in a bowl inside our refrigerator. When it’s time to cook dinner, I look to see what meat is thawed and ready to go. As someone who is certified in safe food handling, I can tell you that this slow refrigerator method is the safest way to thaw meat since most refrigerators are below 40°F (4°C) and bacteria grows most quickly between 41°F and 135°F (5°C and 60°C). The meat also has more time to reabsorb the ice crystals that formed between the fibers, which gives it a better texture.

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Sometimes, however, I am stuck with no thawed meat and need some fast. To quickly thaw meat, place the wrapped meat in a large bowl in the sink. Place it under cool running water for 15 to 20 minutes. This process works great for 1-pound packages of ground meat or steaks, but it isn’t great for a whole chicken or a big hunk of ham—I highly recommend that you use the slow-thaw refrigerator method for larger cuts of meat.

I prefer to get our meat sealed in plastic rather than wrapped in butcher paper. Butcher paper allows water to leak in when the meat is quick-thawed, resulting in soggy meat. Also, with the see-through plastic, I can see if there is any freezer burn before unwrapping it.

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Diana Rodgers

About Diana Rodgers

Diana Rodgers is the creator of the popular food blog Sustainable Dish and the owner of Radiance Nutritional Therapy, where she guides people through the Paleo lifestyle. She's also the author of Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go and The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook. Rodgers lives on a farm west of Boston with her husband and two children.

  1. Martha in KS says:

    I’ve found that it’s necessary to put the packaged meat inside a zip bag before putting under running water. Grocery store wrapping seems to let in water. I also use the microwave to thaw ground beef or a single chicken breast.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Thanks for the plastic bag trick, Martha. Guess it depends on the store and how they wrap things!

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