can i thaw beef on the counter

While it may seem efficient, thawing meat on the counter is highly dangerous. “Ground beef should never be defrosted on the counter or in warm water,” Brigman says. The outer layer of the food will enter the danger zone and begin producing bacteria rapidly while the inner layer is still thawing.

Is defrosting in the microwave okay?

Your microwave might be fast and come with a built-in defrost setting, but it isn’t the best or safest choice for thawing frozen meat.

The USDA says using your microwave’s defrosting feature is perfectly safe, as long as you cook your raw meat immediately after thawing it. That means you can’t let your meat hang out while you prep the rest of your recipe; because you’ve heated it up, you’ve pushed its temperature into the “danger zone” for bacteria.

And microwave thawing comes with another potential danger. Some areas of the meat can become warmer than others, and they can begin to cook during the defrosting process. Bacteria may begin to grow when this happens, and once bacteria start multiplying, your meat can become unsafe to eat in just a short amount of time.

Is it safe to defrost meat under cold or hot water?

Okay, so leaving frozen meat out thawing at room temperature is a bad idea. But what if you speed up the process and toss your meat under cold or hot water?

Even if you’re in a pinch and totally forgot to defrost your meat hours ago, it isn’t exactly the best – or the safest – idea to toss frozen meat under a steady flow of cold or hot water.

Hot water in particular is a pretty bad idea. Sure, running steaming hot water over frozen meat will defrost it quickly. But it’ll also start to cook the meat in the process. Like we mentioned above, the exterior of frozen meat defrosts faster than the center. And as you run it under hot water, it’ll start to cook the exterior of the meat while it’s still frozen solid inside.

Cold water is a bit better, but it still isn’t ideal. The USDA notes that putting frozen meat under cold water can be done safely, but it requires careful attention to ward off bacteria (and you don’t want to just run the tap for hours). Here’s how to do it without putting yourself at risk:

  • Make sure your frozen raw meat is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag (leaks can introduce bacteria from the air or surrounding environment)
  • Submerge the meat in cold tap water – don’t keep it under a constant stream of running water
  • Change the water every 30 minutes
  • Once your meat is fully thawed, make sure to cook it immediately

A pound of frozen meat should thaw with this method in about an hour. 3 to 4 pounds of meat will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to thaw. It’s a good rule of thumb to estimate about 30 minutes of cold water submersion per pound of meat.

If you really need your meat defrosted ASAP, you’re better off trying a different method – like your microwave.

Bacteria develops faster than you think

While leaving meat alone to come up to room temperature might sound like a faster approach, it’s pretty problematic. Sure, you aren’t doing anything to your frozen food. But the problem is meat becomes more delicate and bacteria-prone once it reaches room temperature.

As the USDA explains, frozen raw meat is safe indefinitely when it’s completely frozen. Bacteria can’t grow or multiply once meat is frozen and stored in temps lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, leaving meat out on the counter or in the sink all day while it defrosts means you’re allowing the meat to reach temperatures warmer than 40 degrees. And once meat hits 41 degrees or higher, it enters a bacterial danger zone.

Any bacteria that were present in your raw meat before it was frozen can start to multiply in the warmer temperature of your kitchen. The warmer the meat becomes, the more rapidly bacteria will increase. Plus, as the meat thaws, it won’t thaw evenly. The exterior will thaw first, leaving the center still frozen. This means the outer layer of your raw meat will spend the most amount of time in the danger zone, rapidly collecting potentially dangerous bacteria while the interior defrosts.

As a result, the USDA recommends that perishable foods – including raw meat – never be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. So, keeping meat in various stages of the defrosting process out all day can leave you with a bacteria-riddled dinner.

While it may seem efficient, thawing meat on the counter is highly dangerous. “Ground beef should never be defrosted on the counter or in warm water,” Brigman says. The outer layer of the food will enter the danger zone and begin producing bacteria rapidly while the inner layer is still thawing.

FAQ

How long can you leave beef on the counter to thaw?

However, as soon as they begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply. Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Is it safe to leave frozen beef out to thaw?

Is it OK to thaw meat on the counter? While there are sources that claim you can thaw frozen meat in hot water or simply leaving it out on the counter, the USDA says this isn’t safe. Any piece of thawed meat should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Is it OK to let meat defrost on the counter?

As a result, the USDA recommends that perishable foods – including raw meat – never be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. So, keeping meat in various stages of the defrosting process out all day can leave you with a bacteria-riddled dinner.

How long does beef take to defrost at room temperature?

The Safest way Large cuts of meat, or whole birds (like a chicken), generally take a whole day to defrost safely. Accordingly, a generally rule is to allow 10 – 12 hours per kilogram of meat.

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