how long to thaw ground beef on counter

Cons: “Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University. Leaving frozen ground beef out for more than 2 hours is unsafe.

If you, like many other home cooks, keep a supply of ground beef in the freezer, youre likely familiar with the defrosting process — which means youre probably also familiar with the frustration that comes with forgetting to take the beef out of the freezer ahead of time.

Defrosting ground beef properly ensures you steer clear from potential harmful bacteria. Dr. Darin Detwiler, a food regulatory expert and professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, says that “there will never be an end to pathogens in our food, but we can change the culture around the future of food safety.”

The next time you need to bring your beef to room temperature, follow the methods below.

Quick tip: If you plan to use the ground beef within the next week or so, you can freeze it in its original packaging. However, if youre freezing your beef for more than a week, remove it from its packaging and put it in a sealable freezer bag. Advertisement

Thawing Ground Beef in Cold Water

While its a great way to thaw the protein quickly, defrosting ground beef in cold water requires more attention than using the refrigerator. This method should only be used if the water is kept cold—less than 70 degrees, says Tracey Brigman, EdD, MS, RDN, LD, clinical associate professor and associate director for National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia.

“For safe thawing, the food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag,” Brigman says. You can defrost ground beef in cold water two ways: Run water constantly over the bag of protein until thawed or place the bag of ground beef in a bowl full of cold tap water and ensure it is completely submerged. “The water must be changed every 30 minutes as the food continues to thaw,” Brigman says.

Method 2: In cold water

If you need to defrost your ground beef and dont have a full 24 hours to wait, you can defrost it in a bowl of cold water. This method should take less than an hour, and its safe as long as the water is changed out as it warms to room temperature.

To defrost ground beef in cold water, make sure the beef is sealed in a leak-proof package, like a resealable plastic bag. “Set the plastic bag with the frozen meat in a sink or, preferably, in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and weigh the package of meat down with something heavy,” Detwiler says. The weighing-down keeps the meat submerged, which is essential to keep the meat at a safe temperature for even defrosting.

Leave the package submerged in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes. After that, you can “test” the meats readiness by gently poking it with your fingers. If you feel ice crystals or stiffness, then it needs more time (and a fresh round of cold water). Once the meat is thawed, take it out of the water bowl and cook immediately. Advertisement

Thawing Ground Beef in the Microwave

“Thawing in the microwave is best if you need a fast thaw time,” Saunier says. First, remove all store packaging, because its typically not heat resistant, says Brigman. Then place the beef in a microwave-safe container and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Next, select the defrost feature on the microwave or manually set it to 30 percent power. “If your microwave does not rotate automatically, rotate the container halfway through the defrosting process,” she says. You should also check the instruction manual for your microwave, which provides information on the proper settings for thawing.

When thawing ground beef in the microwave, Saunier stresses that the ground beef should be cooked immediately because some areas may start the cooking process during the thawing. “This brings parts of the food closer to temperatures at which bacteria multiply rapidly,” she says. Additionally, she notes that you should wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling raw ground beef to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Cons: “Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University. Leaving frozen ground beef out for more than 2 hours is unsafe.


Can I leave ground beef on the counter to thaw?

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.

How long does it take to thaw beef on the counter?

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.

Can you defrost at room temperature?

Never thaw food at room temperature or in warm water. Even though the center of a package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter or in the warm water, the outer layer of the food is in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140°F. These are temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

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