Dinner Hack: Defrost Foods Fast!

Pressed for time? Try these easy tips for thawing frozen foods, and shorten your dinner prep routine.

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Food prep takes planning, especially when you’re like me and have the tendency to buy meats in advance and freeze them for future use. If you’re hankering for a specific cut, but are limited on time to let the meat thaw, what can you do? Try one of these clever hacks to make your food defrost faster.

Fresh Turkey in Refrigerator

Store Fresh Poultry in Refrigerator

Purchase your bird three to five days before the planned meal. If you've chosen fresh poultry, ask your butcher to take off the legs and neck if necessary, then keep it unwrapped in the fridge. When you're ready to roast the bird, remove it from the fridge, wash it, pat it dry and leave it for at least two hours to come to room temperature before cooking.

I’ll preface these hacks with a note that the USDA recommends three methods of thawing for food safety and quality – these tips are always more effective for thicker meats like turkeys and roasts, and are helpful when you’re defrosting several days in advance of food preparation.

  • Refrigerator thawing: Transfer an item from the freezer right to the refrigerator to slowly thaw, without giving the food an opportunity to warm enough to begin to spoil. This method will take the longest (1+ days) but is one of the safest.
  • Cold water thawing: Submerge a bag of frozen food in cold tap water to slowly thaw. This method can take 30-minutes to 3 hours depending on the food volume.
  • Microwave thawing: Use the defrost setting to thaws food over several minutes without cooking it.

Looking for other easy defrosting solutions?

If you’re going to be cooking the food immediately after thawing, and not allowing the foods to sit at room temperature for long enough to begin to spoil, these thermodynamic solutions will work for you. 

Defrosting chicken.

Hacks for Defrosting Meat Fast

Learn how to defrost meat using hot water, aluminum, and granite.

Photo by: Emily Fazio ©2016

Emily Fazio, 2016

Thaw meats on an aluminum pan.

The bigger the pan, the better. Place a piece of frozen meat on an aluminum baking sheet or cooking pan and be amazed how fast your food will be ready for the grill. Perfect for steaks, burgers, chicken breasts and sausages. You might think stainless steel or a ceramic dinner plate might be as effective, but the materials conduct energy differently, rendering them less effective.

Another aluminum thawing tip? If your meat is cut flat, like a steak, you can sandwich the meat between the bottoms of two aluminum pans. Filling the top pan with water will increase the speed in which the aluminum can thaw the meat.

Got granite? 

If you have a granite countertop, you might already know that it stands up to a lot. Granite can tolerate being in contact with a dish hot out of the oven, and it's also known to help foods thaw faster. It takes a lot of energy (either heat or chill) to change the core temperature of the stone, so when you place something frozen on a granite countertop, the heat of the countertop will transfer more continuously into frozen items, since the countertop won’t be as affected by the temperature of the defrosting food. The opposite of this? If you were to place a defrosting item on a wooden countertop, thawing would occur more slowly because the food would only be affected by the warm air in the kitchen – wood has a tendency to insulate.

Draw a hot water bath.

This is the fastest way I know of to thaw foods at home when I’m in a rush. Instead of using cold water, fully submerge a water-tight bag into a bowl of warm-to-hot tap water. Drain and refill the water every 5-10 minutes, as the water cools. The food will be ready to cook in a matter of minutes.

Similarly, if you are using blanched and frozen vegetables but don’t want to add them frozen to your dish, you can place them in strainer and run them under hot water for a minute. From there, steam the veggies or add them to recipes.

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