4 Safe Methods for Thawing Food

Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph sh...

Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Food safety is a serious subject. I am passionate about preventing food borne illness. I have been teaching the subject to restaurants, hospitals, schools, dietary managers, nursing homes and at the college level since 1991. I am a Food Safety expert.

This is the launch of a series of food safety articles.

The first subject is on 4 Safe Methods of Thawing Foods.

There are 4 safe methods for thawing food. Following one of these methods can help prevent making your family and friends sick with a food borne illness.

1. Thaw under refrigeration.

This takes some planning. Sort out  your refrigerator so you have a designated drawer on the bottom of your fridge to hold raw meats.

If you want to defrost a whole 3 pound chicken, it will take about 4 days to thaw. You need to plan a place where it can do so safely. All thawing meats should be positioned so they are not dripping onto any foods below them. Place them in containers to catch thawing juices.

In My Fridge

In A Fridge (Photo credit: Nikita Kashner)

Store food according to:”Swim, Walk, Fly”

  • Ready to eat foods on top
  • Things that swim (Including oysters, clams etc. If it comes from the water, it is considered a “swimming thing.”
  • Things that walk around (On hooves and feet and have fur or hair like pork, lamb, beef, or Ostrich.)
  • Things that walk around but are ground up, like ground pork or ground veal or hamburger. These get cooked to a higher temperature than steaks, chops or roasts.
  • Things that fly ( Chickens, ducks, squab, quail, and even though turkeys don’t fly, they also fall into this category)
  • This is based upon internal cooking temperatures which will be explained in another post. For now remember and practice
  • “Swim, Walk, (Ground-up Walk),Fly”

So what happens when you don’t have the time?

2. Thaw under clean drinkable water that is 70°F or less, and either running or changed frequently.

A bowl in the sink with cold water, but not hot, is fine for thawing a package of chicken for dinner. As long as you change the water about every half hour. If water logging is a concern, place the item in a zip lock bag and place that in the water.

The water should be changed every 30 minutes.

This is not a method to use while you are at work. Why? Because the water needs to be changed every 30 minutes or lightly running so the water is exchanged as thawing occurs.

Never thaw in the sink for longer than 4 hours! That is the amount of time it takes any bacterial colonies to grow to dangerous levels.

Never, ever thaw on the counter or just left in the sink. This is a very bad and risky practice.

Keep you eye on the product, it will thaw faster than you think it will.

3. In a microwave as long as the item will be cooked immediately after thawing.

My concern here would be the quality of the item. I can’t think of anything that benefits from a run in the microwave.

But, as long as you cook the item as soon as you finish nuking it to thaw, this is considered a safe method.

Be sure to clean and sanitize the inside of the microwave after you finish thawing.

4. You can thaw food as part of the cooking process.

day fifty three | a piece of meat

(Photo credit: I Are Rowell)

The best examples here are frozen vegetables into soup stock, frozen french fries into the oven or fryer oil and frozen burgers going directly onto the grill.

Again, your call on the quality issue of cooking meats from frozen. I find the texture isn’t as nice than if you thawed it under refrigeration which is my thawing method of choice.

So there you have it. 4 Safe methods to thaw foods.

This information is from ServSafe® an educational division of The National Restaurant Association (NRA). These are the best practices that are used to train food handlers in  all restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and dietitians.

I have a dual role with the NRA to both teach and administer the exam for ServSafe®. Food safety is a passion of mine. No one should ever suffer an illness from food you eat.

Learn how to prevent such things from happening.  Become advocates for your own food safety. If you see a bad practice, speak up!

Implement good food handling practices every time you touch food.

It really is that important.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

None - This image is in the public domain and ...

Food Safety In the Refrigerator

Everyone needs reminders of how to handle food safely. As a professional who teaches food safety, I believe you can’t hear it enough. Small reminders and a bit of education can help save a lot of grief in preventing a multitude of food borne illnesses for anyone who handles food.

Do you know how to keep food safe in the refrigerator?

Current Contents of Refrigerator

Current Contents of Refrigerator (Photo credit: Natalie Maynor)

This post will outline the basic concept of refrigerator storage to reduce the chance of cross contamination.

The top of the fridge should be home to all ready to eat foods. Sandwich meats, cheese, leftovers get stored above raw products.

Some refrigerators have 2 bottom drawers. Designate one for raw meats and one for fresh produce. If you only have one large drawer, buy plastic storage bin that will fit on one side and designate that for meat storage. Keep all poultry separate from meat.

Raw meats should be stored in the following order

  1. Things that swim
  2. Things that walk
  3. Things that are ground-up walking around
  4. Things that fly or come from things that fly

This is called “The Swim, Walk, Fly System” of refrigerated storage.

To describe each category:

  1. Things that swim

    English: Sushi is a dish made of vinegared ric...

    Raw seafood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raw fresh water and salt water fish, whole or fillets, shell-fish, shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels, oysters, etc.

If it is pre-cooked, it goes with the ready-to-eat category.

2. Things that walk

English: Veal shank used for ossobuco. Dansk: ...

English: Veal shank used for osso buco.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raw beef, pork, veal, lamb, venison, boar, buffalo

     3. Things that are ground-up walking around

Raw Ground beef

Raw Ground beef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any raw ground beef, veal, pork, venison, buffalo: if it is ground up it goes below whole muscle meats.

      4. Things that fly or come from things that fly

Raw chicken fillet

Raw chicken fillet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All raw birds: chicken, quail, turkey, pheasant, squab, duck, and even though it does not fly, ostrich belongs in this category.

Raw eggs belong on the bottom shelf too. If one breaks, it won’t have the chance of dripping all over other things in the refrigerator.

Here is an interesting experiment to try with a raw egg:

English: The white eggshell has been removed b...

English: The white eggshell has been removed by soaking a normal chicken egg into vinegar for 48 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course don’t eat the egg after.

Make it a habit to wash the drawers and shelves when they get soiled or sticky.

An open box of baking soda will help absorb strong odors.

After handling raw meats, poultry and seafood, be sure to wash and sanitize the knives, cutting boards, sinks and counter tops to prevent cross contamination.

Clorox Clean-up spray does a great job of this. Use gloves when handling to protect your skin.

That’s it for now.

I’m going to go soak an egg.