Food should be thawed safely to (1) minimize the time that it is in the temperature danger zone (40 to 140°F), and (2) to prevent cross-contamination. Thawing at room temperature on the counter is unsafe. Thawed portions of potentially hazardous foods can support bacterial growth. Potentially hazardous foods are moist, protein-rich foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, rice, and beans.
There are four ways to safely thaw food. The food you are thawing will determine which method you choose.
- Thaw in the refrigerator. Note: This method requires advanced planning. For large pieces of meat like a whole turkey or roast, allow 24 hours for each five pounds of meat.
- Thaw in a refrigerator operating at 40°F or colder.
- Place food in a pan to prevent dripping.
- Place the pan of food on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
- Thaw under drinkable, running water. Note: Use for foods that can be thawed within two hours. This method does not work well with large pieces of food that cannot be safely thawed in two hours.
- Place the food in a clean, sanitized sink or pot.
- The water should be running constantly and the temperature of the water should be 70°F or less. Cool running water is required to prevent rapid growth of bacteria and to wash off loose food particles.
- Thaw as part of the cooking process.
- Works well for small amounts of food, such as vegetables, hamburger patties, and seafood.
- Always cook food to a safe internal temperature.
- When thawing already cooked foods by this method, always reheat to 165°F.
- Thaw in the microwave.
- Works for small amounts of food and single servings.
- After thawing in the microwave, immediately cook food in the microwave or by conventional methods.
- When continuing to cook in the microwave: cover to retain moisture and to prevent spattering
- rotate food halfway through the cooking cycle
- stir food
- allow two minutes standing time before serving food.
Keep food safe by using a safe thawing method.
Publication date: Nov. 1, 1998
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