Thaw your frozen foods safely

Using a safe method to thaw frozen foods will prevent the potential of foodborne illnesses.

The safest way to thaw frozen foods is in your refrigerator. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you NEVER thaw food at room temperature. The problem with thawing food at room temperature is that once food begins to thaw in temperatures warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can grow and the food can become unsafe to eat. When foods that are frozen or refrigerated are left out at room temperature for more than two hours they may enter the danger zone – unsafe temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, in which bacteria can rapidly multiply.

To safely thaw, place the frozen food on the bottom refrigerator shelf with a plate or pan to catch any juices that may leak out. Most food items will be ready to use the next day if they are less than four pounds. The rule of thumb is that it will take 24 hours to thaw five pounds of food. If you want to thaw a large frozen item (such as a turkey) in your refrigerator and it weighs 15 pounds, it will require a minimum of three or possibly four days to completely thaw.

While the refrigerator is the best method to thaw food, there are other methods that can be used if pressed for time. Food can be thawed under cool, running water that is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or less, as long as the food is small enough to be thawed in under two hours. Never defrost food in hot water. A microwave can also be used to thaw food if the food is going to be cooked immediately.

If you don’t have enough time to thaw food, it is safe to cook foods that are frozen. Your cooking time will be approximately 50 percent longer compared to a fully thawed meat or poultry.

Check the temperature of your refrigerator to make sure it is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Do not overstuff the refrigerator. It is important for cold air to circulate which will aide in the thawing process.

For more information visit the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Education website on Safe Defrosting Methods.

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