How to Defrost Meat: An Easy Step-By-Step Guide

The pressure of work can leave us without have the time or money to be using fresh meat.

Sometimes the best option for you and our family is to use frozen meat.

So find out how to defrost meat the safest way

How To Defrost Meat

What AreThe Safest Ways To Defrost Meat?

There are three main methods you can use to defrost meat safely. 

1. Thawing Meat in the Refrigerator

This is one of the simplest methods. Leave the meat in your refrigerator in its original packaging and in a dish large enough to catch the dripping.

You will need to allow one hour for every pound.

2. Thawing Meat in A Hot Water Bath

Use this method for thinner cuts of meat.

Research from a 2011 study by the USDA found that you are able to thaw a piece of steak that is 1” thick in water 102°F water in 11 minutes.

The meat quickly moves past the danger zone that microbes have been to thrive in.

This test also shows that less purge or liquid is lost than the traditional thawing methods. 

If you want to try this method yourself:

  1. Place your meat underneath a plate inside of a large bowl. Fill this bowl with hot water and stir it continually as the meat will create a bubble of cold water around itself.

  2. Make check this resource to find out how long you should leave it. Ensure you set a timer so you don’t leave the meat in the water for too long.

The timing will depend on how thick the meat is and the heat of your water. This method has been found to be most effective for chicken parts, steak and chops.

This method will not work on thicker cuts like roasts, brisket, turkey or pork butt this is due to the fact the exterior will stay in the danger for a prolonged period. 

3. Thawing Meat in A Cold Water Bath

This technique ensures the least amount of fluid lost or purge.

You need to place your meat in an airtight ziplock bag then inside a plastic insulated cool bag.

Cover with cold water, about an hour later add a few liters of water and ice to ensure the water temp is under 40°F or 4°C, you will need to continue to do this every hour.

The above is a guide for all types of defrosting for all types of meat. 

You will find a more specific breakdown below of how to defrost each type of meat.

How To Defrost Chicken

You have three options when it comes to thawing your chicken.

You can either thaw your chicken in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.

How to Defrost Chicken in the Refrigerator

You may find that the easiest method for defrosting chicken, however, it can take up to the longest amount of time.

To thaw your chicken in the refrigerator follow these steps.

  1. Ensure you keep your frozen chicken in the unopened wrapper and place in a tray that will stop the juices from dripping on other food.

  2. Place your chicken on the lowest shelf in the fridge.

  3. You will have to allow about 24 hours to thaw each pound of frozen boneless chicken breasts. When you are thawing a whole frozen chicken, it will take around 4 to 6 hours per pound of chicken.

How to Thaw Chicken in Cold Water

One of the fastest ways to defrost frozen chicken is in cold water, however, compared to refrigerator thawing, this process can require a lot more attention.

Ensure the frozen chicken is in a bag without any leaks.

Submerge the bag in cold tap water — never ever use warm or hot water.

Make sure you change the water every 30 minutes, to ensure that it stays cold enough.

Using this thawing method, it will take about 30 minutes for each pound of chicken you need to defrost.

Thaw Chicken in the Microwave

Another fast way to defrost chicken in the microwave.

In your microwave manual, you should have the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing chicken.

Remove all outside plastic wrapping.

Place on a microwave-safe dish.

If you decide to defrost your chicken in the microwave, make sure you cook it immediately after it’s thawed.

Note: You don’t have to defrost your chicken before grilling according to the CDC but it will have a better taste if you do.

If you hadn’t noticed by know, I am HUGE beef fan! Whether it’s steak, brisket or ribs, I enjoy cooking them all. However one does usually trump, that is brisket. The succulent interior and crispy bark, so delicious! I always get asked, how long to smoke brisket? so I have put together a guide on all things brisket, enjoy!

How To Defrost Steak

Find out the top three ways to defrost steak below.

Thaw Steak in The Refrigerator

The best way is to let your defrost steak in the refrigerator overnight.

If you allow your steak to defrost slowly and at a controlled temperature it can lead to a juicier, more flavorful steak.

To do this place the frozen steak on a plate at on the bottom of your refrigerator.

Thaw Steak in Water

Fill the entire sink with cold water and can allow the steak to defrost in its packaging. 

It can also allow the steak to defrost evenly and at a more controlled temperature. 

This method will work faster than the refrigerator and usually only takes about 20 minutes.

Thaw Steak in the Microwave

Thawing steak in the microwave is discouraged by most professionals.

The heat from the microwave causes the steak to lose its natural juices, and the final product could become dry and less tender.

If you need to defrost your steak in the microwave leave the steak in its packaging and watch it carefully as it defrosts.

As soon as the out portions start to thaw, take it out and let it rest. The rest of the meat will thaw during standing time.

How to Defrost Ground Beef or Ground Turkey

To defrost ground beef or ground turkey follow the steps below

Defrost in the Refrigerator

Place the frozen ground beef on a plate in a ziplock bag and put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

The ground beef should thaw in 1 to 2 hours. Ensure you cook or within 2 days.

Defrost in the Microwave

  1. Place the ziplock bag with the frozen ground beef on a plate. Read your manual for the correct defrost setting on your microwave.

  2. Make sure turning halfway through.

  3. Make sure you cook the meat immediately, as some parts of the meat may have begun cooking during the defrosting process.

Note: You cannot refreeze raw meat thawed in the microwave.

Defrost in Cool Water

  1. With your frozen ground beef in a sealed bag, cover it with cold water and a heavyweight to submerge it.

  2. Once thawed cook immediately and do not refreeze the raw meat. One of favorite smokers for turkey is the cook shack smoker, it never dries out the bird and always gives a good crispy skin.

Turkey mince is great but for a real special treat sometimes you need to up the ante a little bit. The kids and I love turkey when it is smoked whole. Follow my steps on smoking a turkey in electric smoker to really impress your guests!

Fresh Meat Vs. Frozen Meat

How to Defrost Meat Safely

It has been found fresh meat is better than frozen meat this is because when the water crystals expand during the freezing process they puncture the cells walls.

Did you ever notice when you defrost meat that there is pink juice left?

This is called purge and there is no way to get it back in your meat.

You will find that is juice is what makes your meat tender and juicy. However, meat that is frozen when fresh is absolutely better than meat that frozen after already sitting around for a while.

But it really comes down to what is most convenient for you and your family. 

There is nothing like having a pork butt (my favorite cut) defrosting in the freezer. 

It’s getting ready to make one hell of a delicious meal for your friends and family. I

I always ensure that I safely defrost meat I use, the last thing I would ever want is for someone to get sick. 

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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