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Thread: Thawing Meat

  1. #1
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    Thawing Meat

    How do you thaw your meat? I just came back from a week long family reunion and all of the girls were sitting around and we started talking about cooking. It is always interesting to me to see the differences in the generations. All of my Aunts said they just pull out the meat from the freezer the morning of and sit it in the sink and by the time they get home from work it is thawed out and ready to go.

    The younger generation had a fit and couldn't believe they didn't thaw their meat in the fridge. They were so shocked by the sink idea. If you think about it that is the way our parents did things when we were kids and none of us got sick.

    Does anyone still thaw their meat in the sink all day?

  2. #2
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    I remember my Mother thawed meat in the sink all day, too. And no, none of us ever got sick! I will often set meat out on the counter a couple hours, but more often that not, it is in the microwave on very low power until semi-thawed, and then on the counter until it is thawed enough to work with.
    Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.

  3. #3
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    Not me! I usually look at what I'm going to use over 2-3 days and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. I *never* leave meat sitting out. I do remember both grandmother and my mother doing the same thing, though. I know that they usually used much larger cuts of meat, so maybe that had something to do with why we didn't all die of food poisoning, but I'm not taking the chance.
    Okay...it's time to pull up your big-girl panties and get on with it. (Seen on a bathroom wall.)

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  4. #4
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    No way! I've had food poisoning 2x (albeit not from counter thawing), and am completely paranoid about food preparation.

    From USDA website:

    The Big Thaw - Safe Defrosting Methods
    for Consumers

    Uh, oh! You're home and forgot to defrost something for dinner. You grab a package of meat or chicken and use hot water to thaw it fast. But is this safe? What if you remembered to take food out of the freezer, but forgot and left the package on the counter all day while you were at work?

    Neither of these situations are safe, and these methods of thawing lead to foodborne illness. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during "the big thaw." Foods are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as food begins to defrost and become warmer than 40 F, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.

    Foods should never be thawed or even stored on the counter, or defrosted in hot water. Food left above 40 F (unrefrigerated) is not at a safe temperature.

    Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food is in the "Danger Zone," between 40 and 140 F at temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

    When defrosting frozen foods, it's best to plan ahead and thaw food in the refrigerator where food will remain at a safe, constant temperature 40 F or below.

    There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.

  5. #5
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    When I was growing up, we thawed meat -- including ground beef -- in the sink. I USUALLY thaw in the fridge myself, but if I haven't planned that far ahead, I don't have qualms about thawing something like a single chicken breast or small steak at room temp. I typically thaw until JUST thawed, I definitely don't leave it at room temp for a long time. Something large that would thaw very slowly? In the fridge, but as more of a better-safe-than-sorry measure than any deep horror over bacteria. You DO have to be more careful about poultry and ground meat than large hunks-o-beef.

  6. #6
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    If I have planned ahead well enough, I thaw it in the refrigerator. If I do need to thaw it in the sink, I make sure it is filled with cold water (which I've read is somewhat safe) and then only for a couple of hours, not all day.

    On a similar note, after Sunday dinner my mom and grandmother put all the leftovers back in the (unheated) oven--meat, vegetables, whatever--and they remained there until someone wanted something else to eat, which was sometimes well into the evening. I can't imagine doing that today, but then again, none of us got sick that I know of.
    "Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that's bad for you."
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  7. #7
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    I usually do a combo -- we're home most of the time, so I get dinner meat out in the morning, and put it in the fridge about 10 a.m. -- just gives it a head start!

    It's amazing we didn't die from some of the stuff our folks did, isn't it? Imagine eating raw eggs, and giving honey to babies!
    Kay
    I'm a WYSIWYG person -- no subterfuge here!

  8. #8
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    I know a lot of us grew up in households where thawing meat out on the counter was common, but I wonder if the meat industry has changed enough that it is less safe to do that now than it used to be?

    I have gotten reasonably good at remembering before work to start the meat defrosting. I learned previously from this board to put the meat in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator. If I do this, it is always defrosted by the time I get home. I should understand the thermodynamics of that, I suppose, but suffice it to say that it is much faster than just setting the frozen meat in the fridge without the water. I have even defrosted chicken breasts and steaks after I got home using this method.

  9. #9
    If I've planned ahead, I thaw in the fridge. If I haven't planned ahead, I thaw on the counter, but only if I'm going to be home to put it in the fridge after a few hours.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by LakeMartinGal View Post
    It's amazing we didn't die from some of the stuff our folks did, isn't it? Imagine eating raw eggs, and giving honey to babies!
    Well, I think there are two issues here. First, as with meat and eggs and some other things, the food supply just isn't as safe as it once was. Modern industrial-scale poultry farming and meat processing has lead to an increased presence of harmful substances. The fact that we get produce from all over the world, where standards aren't even as strict as they are here, adds to the problem. Second, the "cleaner" your food and environment, the lower your resistance to garden-variety bugs. No matter how extremely careful you are, if you visit south of the border you WILL get "tourista" until your body adjusts to the new, but not permanently harmful, bugs that they have that we don't. The proliferation of antibacterial products means that children are LESS exposed to environmental bugs and therefore are actually MORE susceptible to illnesses than we were at that age.

    I'm not arguing for lower standards or less caution by ANY means, but the reason that we didn't get sick with more lax practices as children is not just dumb luck.

  11. #11
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    I used to thaw meat in the microwave but I didn't like how it defrosted unevenly.

    Now that I have a foodsaver, I just take the package of meat out of the freezer & put it in a sinkful of cold water to thaw out. But I'm usually hanging around the house so I'll put it in the fridge as soon as it's defrosted. I don't leave it for hours on end.

    I've never had much luck defrosting meat in the refrigerator. Maybe my fridge is too cold, but I swear I could start today & maybe the turkey would be thawed for Thanksgiving!!!
    Sue

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by suebear37 View Post
    I've never had much luck defrosting meat in the refrigerator.
    I have to remember to take mine out at least a full day ahead, not in the morning, or it's still rock-hard by the time I get home from work. I use either the fridge or the microwave; I can be cavalier about food safety, but I would squirm at leaving food out all day, even if my mother and grandmother *did* do it.

  13. #13
    I have 2 methods I employ.
    I generally take the meat out the night before, just before I go to bed around 9 or 10pm, and let it thaw in the sink overnight and into the fridge when I get up in the morning around 5am. I feel the night time temp is cooler and a bit safer. Never gotten sick using this method.
    If I do forget, I use the soak in a sink of cold water method until just starting to thaw. Then into the fridge. I generally use this method on the weekends when I have time to babysit the sink of water as it's supposed to be changed every 30 minutes or so.
    I don't care for the microwave defrost method as there are always "cooked" parts using that method.

  14. #14
    I'm pretty lax about thawing meats. I'll thaw it in the sink in water - sometimes it's even - gasp - warm water.

    If any of us ever get sick, I'm sure I'll think twice about it, but so far it works for me.

    I never plan ahead enough to thaw in the fridge and even when I do, it can take more than a full day to thaw. Well, what if I want steaks right now? I like being a bit more spontaneous than that. I pick things up in bulk to save money, so it almost always gets frozen first. Plus, sometimes I plan ahead and thaw it out in the refrigerator and then plans change and I have thawed meat sitting in the fridge that isn't getting used.

    For now, I'll take my chances........

  15. #15
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    I usually don't decide what to have for dinner until lunchtime or maybe a little later, especially if we're gong to cook out... gotta watch the weather report!

    And if eating cookie dough all these years hasn't killed me, then I think I'm probably safe defrosting meat in the sink...
    Sue

    I'm here with my best friend... my fork!! ~ Paula Deen

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  16. #16
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    I usually thaw in the sink as well. I just don't have good luck thawing in the fridge. Usually, though, I'm starting to thaw my meat at 3:30 for dinner that will be served around 5:30, so its not like its sitting out for hours. I remember my mom thawing meat on the counter. She was a SAHM, so she could keep a close eye on what she was doing.
    “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed
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  17. #17
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    Like others have mentioned, the food world is different now than when we were kids. It's hard to convince Grandma and Grandpa that kids shouldn't eat the raw cookie dough. But, on the flip side, they would cook their pork to death and that isn't as necessary today as it was then.

    I'll never forget finding out that my mom would give my dad the plate of raw meat to grill only to have him put the cooked meat on the same plate! Sometimes he would rinse it off with the hose.... I put up a fuss and they've changed their ways.

  18. #18
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    My Mom always (still does maybe, not sure) thawed meat on the counter or in the sink all day. Since I learned from her, I did that too until one day I came home to see something underneath my kitchen table and I couldn't figure out what it was. Well turns out it was a boneless skinless chicken breast! The cats had apparently decided they would tear open the package and drag the thawed breasts around the house.

    Then I started "thawing" my meat in the micro (putting it in the microwave all day instead of sitting in the sink). But now I thaw in the refrigerator or in the microwave (actually using it) unless i'm going to be home (like the weekends) where I can make sure I only leave it out for a few hours.
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  19. #19
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    i thaw in the sink with a gentle stream of cold water running (thanks, alton!) or in the fridge if i have time. sometimes i'll put it on the counter but not all day - only if i know i'm going to cook it in say 2 hours and i think it'll thaw by then.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by stacy7272 View Post
    I'll never forget finding out that my mom would give my dad the plate of raw meat to grill only to have him put the cooked meat on the same plate! Sometimes he would rinse it off with the hose.... I put up a fuss and they've changed their ways.
    When we do fondue, my dad puts his raw meat and cooked meat all together on the plate! That grosses me out.

    I may be lax about some of my food handling things, but I DO have limits.

    Oh, and I don't let the stuff sit in the sink all day either - it usually thaws pretty quickly.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by suebear37 View Post
    And if eating cookie dough all these years hasn't killed me, then I think I'm probably safe defrosting meat in the sink...

    I used to wonder about this too, considering I'm a closet Dough Hound.

    If it's the dead of winter I'll pull it out of the freezer before we go to bed and leave it in the sink, and first thing in the morning it goes into the fridge. If it's the other 10 months of the year I try to plan two days ahead and put it in the fridge to thaw, but my fridge must be like the others that take forever!

    I will never again defrost in the microwave. With all the advances in microwaves over the years you'd think they could come up with one that didn't roach the sides while the rest was still rock hard. :mad:
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  22. #22
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    I just thought about a trick my Mom taught me. If you are in a rush and need something thawed out then stick it in the dishwasher, on the top rack, on the steam cycle (the end of the cycle). I know it sounds crazy but she says she does it all the time.

  23. #23
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    In a perfect world...

    I take what needs to be thawed out of the freezer the night before, and stick it in the fridge. Mid-morning, I check it to see how it's doing. Usually it's still frozen solid. (I recently put ice in the bottom drawer to keep some seafood extra cold and didn't bother to take out the ice even though we'd eaten the seafood--it stayed frozen for 3 days!!! ) I take it out of the fridge and leave on the counter "for a while." I'm a SAHM, so I can keep a close eye on it. If I need to leave, I stick it back in the refrigerator.

    If it's mid-afternoon and I'm just getting what I need out of the freezer (usually chicken breasts) I thaw it about halfway in the microwave and let it thaw the rest of the way sitting there in the microwave. The nice part about doing it this way is that when it's time to cook, the chicken has just come to room temperature, which has improved certain dishes that we make. I remember Sara Moulton always said to do this on her show on the Food Network (let meat come to room temp, that is)
    “the greatest risk of eating is getting run over on the way to buy your food, not from the food itself.”

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  24. #24
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    If I plan far enough ahead I thaw in the fridge, but usually it seems like it isn't all the way thawed after a couple days even, the middle will still be somewhat frozen (usually I find this with a whole chicken).

    Usually, we thaw in a sink of cold water. I periodically check to make sure the water stays cold enough and I flip the meat over too, to get both sides thawed in the water.

    Lisa

  25. #25
    99% of the time, I defrost meat and poultry in the microwave. The defrost function allows you to input the weight (I use the kitchen scale to weigh it) and I rarely have any poblem with the meat cooking as it defrosts or turn any color of gary. Sometimes, I defrost in the refrigerator, especially whole chickens because they don't seem to do well in the microwave. I use the Foodsaver to freeze all my meats, take it out, pop it in the microwave and I'm ready to ccok!

  26. #26
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    I generally use the micro to start the thaw. I give it one quick zap 3:30 min. on a low setting 30, and then again for 2 at 20 power. It gets it going and prevents that cooked outside that occurs when I use the defrost setting. I put it in the sink until thawed.

    Vicky

  27. #27
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    Just to reiterate my point, for everyone defrosting in a sinkful of water and having to keep an eye on changing the water all the time: unless you have a huge piece of meat or a whole chicken/turkey or something like that that is too big for a bowl, just put the meat in a big bowl of water in the refrigerator. The water stays cold and the meat actually does thaw out. I, like everyone else, can't get meat to defrost by just setting it alone in the fridge. But the water method makes all the difference, and it defrosts quickly .

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meganator View Post
    Just to reiterate my point, for everyone defrosting in a sinkful of water and having to keep an eye on changing the water all the time: unless you have a huge piece of meat or a whole chicken/turkey or something like that that is too big for a bowl, just put the meat in a big bowl of water in the refrigerator. The water stays cold and the meat actually does thaw out. I, like everyone else, can't get meat to defrost by just setting it alone in the fridge. But the water method makes all the difference, and it defrosts quickly .
    That's a good idea I never thought of. I knew that anything thaws faster in ice cold water then hot water but I never thought to do that in the fridge. I'm going to try that next time. Normally in my fridge it takes 2 days to thaw something out. I bet it could be thawed out by the time I get home from work it I put it in there in the morning.

  29. #29
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    I'm one of those that have a menu planned for each week so, as I'm preparing supper for, let's just say tonight, then I'm actually looking ahead to tomorrow night to see if there is anything I need to go ahead and do to prepare for that meal. I buy my meat in bulk, break it down into smaller packages (there are just 2 of us) and freeze. There isn't very many nights that I don't need to defrost something. I simply pull it out the night before and set it in the middle or top shelf of the refrigerator - cold air falls.

    If I forget I live close enough to home that when I go pick up lunch for everyone I just swing by the house and set it out on the countertop. It's usually only a couple of hours before I'm back with it.

    I can't stand using the microwave for defrosting but then again, I don't really use it for much of anything - don't really know why I even have one.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by PAMMELA View Post
    My Mom always (still does maybe, not sure) thawed meat on the counter or in the sink all day. Since I learned from her, I did that too until one day I came home to see something underneath my kitchen table and I couldn't figure out what it was. Well turns out it was a boneless skinless chicken breast! The cats had apparently decided they would tear open the package and drag the thawed breasts around the house.
    Too funny! This is probably what would happen in my house as well. One of my cats will try anything she can get her teeth into.

    This thread reminds me of a Thanksgiving 2 years ago when my Grandfather wanted to let the pre-cooked turkey that he had picked up at the grocery store sit in the (cold) oven all day long until we had dinner that night. That might be the only time I have really stood up to one of my Grandparents!

    And for the record, I will thaw something on the counter for a short period of time but never more than an hour or so. Of course, that is the way my Mom did it...
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