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Thawing out meat in the refridgerator.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I don't know if this question has been tackled before, but I can't seem to find this subject doing a search of the message board.

I'm wondering how many of you actually thaw your meat items out in the refridgerator? This is because after taking a pound of hamburger out of my chest freezer yesterday, and setting it in the refridgerator to thaw, it's still practically frozen solid after almost 18 hours in the fridge.

I can't even imagine how long it would take to thaw out a 25 lb turkey in the refridgerator, like they always recommend you to thaw your bird in all the advice articles on tv and in the newspaper. At the rate that meat thaws out in my fridge, the outside of the turkey would be rotten by the time the inside was thawed out.

Does anyone actually follow these guidelines for thawing their bird out? And if so, exactly how do you go about it without it taking days, and days, and days to accomplish?
“Britain is the only country in the world where the food is more dangerous than the sex.” - Jackie Mason
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“Britain is the only country in the world where the food is more dangerous than the sex.” - Jackie Mason
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post #2 of 11
The key is planning ahead. We thaw our meat in the refrigerator when we know we'll be wanting something in particular. You might also check the temperature of your refrigerator to make sure it's where it should be, at 35 to 38 degrees Farenheit. Thaw on the top shelf because it's warmer than the bottom area of the fridge. If time is an issue, you can put it on a platter and thaw on the counter depending on the temperature of the air or in your sink filled with cool water which is still warmer than frozen temps.
post #3 of 11
"put it on a platter and thaw on the counter or in your sink" - Oh please, don't do that!! That's the fastest way to get into trouble with meat.

I'd say you're fridge is too cold - also if you just touch the meat that you think is still frozen solid, you might find it really isn't if you take it out - it may have some ice crystals remaining but you can work with it like that.

Leaving the meat out on a counter - the outside will reach the danger zone - 40 degrees or higher and the inside will still be frozen.

If you have a microwave, you might try that for a short period, I hate it when meat gets those 'cooked' corners and the inside is still frozen!!

As far as turkeys/poultry - I always take them out of the freezer 4-5 or 6 days ahead of time. The last day you can finish it off by covering with cold water in a large container and manipulating it till it's completely pliable.
cj
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cj
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post #4 of 11
You know, depending on the meat you can try a variety of things... The top shelf in a properly set fridge (temperature wise) will work, but again, its very slow.

Here are a couple of things I do... (side note, I am POSITIVE I will get railed for suggesting this, but just follow along ;) )

For frozen birds (turkeys, chickens...)

- I tend to brine whole birds (brining isn't required for this, if you choose not to brine, then put the bird in a water tight plastic bag) before I cook with them, and because I tend to do this, my technique here works well... Often times when I am defrosting a turkey, I will check it the day before to see how thawed it it... almost *always* its still frozen. Using a cooler that can fit a 14-16lb turkey, I mix ice, water and salt (sea salt)... Keep the water ICE cold and putting the turkey in there to brine will often have the turkey ready to work with after about 8 hours.

- In the case of chickens, its a little easier, leaving the still frozen chicken in the packing, I fill a cooler or clean bucket with cold water and sometimes add some ice. leaving the chcken in there for a few hours usually does the trick.

For red meats / hamburger

- Same thing, make sure the meat is in a water proof plastic bag, and submerse in cool/cold/ice cold water for a few hours.

Now here is why I am sure I will be railed for suggesting those methods: People would argue that thawing meat/poultry via water will thaw the product too quickly... maybe even cause some of the meat to brown before cooking it.... my answer to this is simple... use cold... cold... water. The water creates an excellent ambient temperature all around the meat/poultry and causes it to slowly thaw, but at the same time thaw much faster than the fridge. In my opinion, doing this method is far more effective than using a microwave.
post #5 of 11
I do the same with my meats. Put them in cold, cold air tight container and let them thaw.
post #6 of 11
Thawing meat in cool running water is okay, if I remember from various sanitation courses -- the idea is that it thaws faster than when left at room temperature and so does not spend as long in the Danger Zone. Of course, it has to be well wrapped so that the water doesn't get to it, and I've found I have to weight it down to stay under the water. The main point is keeping the thawing food out of the Danger Zone, so if you let it thaw somewhat more rapidly in cold water just until the large ice crystals have thawed, and then finish the thawing in the fridge, it should be okay.

A really large turkey DOES take several days to thaw in the fridge, but as long as the fridge is cold enough (I agree that if all meat takes days to thaw in the fridge, yours might be too cold), I guarantee the outside won't rot before the inside thaws. And anyway, there is no harm in cooking an unstuffed turkey that still has some ice in the cavity, so long as you cook it thoroughly to the proper temperature.

That said, I confess to leaving small amounts of solid muscle meat out on the counter to thaw. :blush: I wouldn't do it with ground meat or sausage or fish, since those carry a higher risk of being contaminated with bacteria. But it's not a good idea, since the faster thawing causes the meat to lose more moisture. (In any case, I've never made us sick :rolleyes: but I cannot recommend the practice.)
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 11
To even give a hint of recommendation to that practice is so dangerous...I hope you'll reconsider ever suggesting it to anyone.
cj
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cj
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post #8 of 11
I think that putting meat out on the counter to thaw will have different results depending on where you are. For example, if I am on the gulf coast in the summer time I could be in serious trouble. On the other hand, if I am in North Dakota in winter I might be inclined to do it. The point is, you cannot make a blanket statement to say it is or is not safe. There are too many variables.

If I am not mistaken the danger zone is from 41 to 140 degrees F for more than 4 hours. All things being equal, if you can thaw the piece of meat in less time than that it will generally be OK. It does require some judgement on the part of the cook though, to modify the time out of the fridge to suit the circumstances. I have thawed smaller pieces of meat on the counter for many years and like Suzanne have never got anybody sick.

Apart from the food safety issue, another reason for a slow thaw in the fridge is texture. Thawing too quickly allows the sharp ice crystals to chew up the meat and give it a mushy texture.

Jock
post #9 of 11
Cathy you must have an extraordinarily cold fridge. A pound of hamburger will thaw in less than 12 hours in my fridge (and yes, my fridge is plugged in :lol: )
Eric V.
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Eric V.
http://applesaucecafe.com
Real. Good. Living.
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post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the input - it's interesting to hear the different views on this subject.

I'll probably just continue to do what I've been doing - the method that they always warn against you using. That being: taking it out to thaw the day before and speeding the process up by setting it in a sink full of water overnight. I've been doing that for years - that's the way my mother and sisters do it as well - and so far we've never had any problems with contaminated meat. We cook our birds stuffed, as well. Personally, I think you just have to use some common sense and cook the bird thoroughly to avoid contamination.

As for the hamburger meat - it was really more like 1 1/2 lbs of extremely lean ground beef, wrapped tightly in butcher's paper. And we do keep our chest freezer at a very low temperature, and the fridge at the lowest recommended temperature.
“Britain is the only country in the world where the food is more dangerous than the sex.” - Jackie Mason
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“Britain is the only country in the world where the food is more dangerous than the sex.” - Jackie Mason
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post #11 of 11
While thawing in the cooler is the best, and safest method, thawing in cool water works well also. For cooks, and chefs, most health codes require it to be running water so that the water is constantly being refreshed, but at home I usually just do it in standing water that I change every hour or so. As for room temp thawing, though I don't do it in a restaurant setting I will often do it at home with smaller, whole muscle, non poultry items. Never have gotten sick off of that, but then again I don't let it sit out for hours and hours.
http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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