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What is the best way to thaw frozen foods?

Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the "Danger Zone," between 40 and 140 °F -- temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly. When thawing frozen food, it's best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature -- around 40 °F.
Jamie Johnson
Nutrition & Dietetics
According to ServSafe by the National Restaurant Association, there are 4 safe, acceptable methods to thaw frozen food that prevent bacterial overgrowth that can lead to foodborne illness or food safety issues. These methods include:
  1. Transferring food from the freezer to a refrigerator that is 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower/cooler to thaw-usually overnight,
  2. Under constant running water that is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower/cooler to prevent bacteria from thawed liquid pooling on the food product,
  3. In a microwave oven only if the food will be cooked immediately after, and
  4. As part of the cooking process -- in other words, cooking frozen food without thawing.
Frozen foods should never be thawed under hot water, left on the counter, or left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Refrigerator thawing is the safest method when able to plan ahead. Thawing in cold water is faster than the refrigerator, but requires the food be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag that is submerged under in cold tap water that is changed every 30 minutes to continue thawing. 

ServSafe National Restaurant Association: http://www.servsafe.com/nfsem/2004/downloads/NSFEM_poster_18x24.pdf
USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Big_Thaw/
Doreen Rodo
Nutrition & Dietetics

The best way to thaw frozen foods is:

  • In the refrigerator
  • Under cold, running water or in ice bath, fully covered
  • In the microwave
  • By starting to cook it

(You should never thaw food by leaving it on the counter at room temperature).

Cindy Gay
Nutrition & Dietetics
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. For cooking immediately, defrost in the microwave, then commence cooking.
Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics
There are 3 ways to safely thaw frozen foods: in the refrigerator overnight, under cool running water or in the microwave just before cooking. 

Do not allow frozen foods to thaw on the counter or in the sink.

For more information on food safety visit www.homefoodsafety.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.