How To: Defrost food safely

Defrost food safely

Thawing frozen food on the countertop or in warm water may put your family at risk from food-borne bacteria. Keep them safe by following these methods.

Step 1: Know the dangers
Keep food out of "the danger zone" – between 40 and 140 degrees. Freezing stops bacteria from growing but does not kill it. As soon as frozen food reaches 40 degrees, harmful bacteria can multiply.

Step 2: Plan ahead
To defrost in the fridge, allow one full day for every five pounds for large items like a turkey or roast. You'll need a full 24 hours for anything under five pounds, such as a package of ground beef or chicken breasts.

Step 3: Know your refrigerator
Keep in mind that some areas inside your refrigerator are colder than others. Allow more time for items placed in the colder regions.

Step 4: Seal well for cold water defrosting
If time is short, defrost in a cold water bath. Seal anything that's not in watertight packaging in a leak-proof, plastic bag. Fully submerge the item in cold water.

Step 5: Change the water
Replace the cold water every half hour. Allow an hour per pound for packages up to three pounds and 30 minutes per pound for larger items.

Food thawed in cold water or in a microwave must be cooked immediately and cannot be refrozen.

Step 6: Unwrap before microwaving
To defrost in a microwave, remove food from its packaging first. Foam trays and liners can melt in a microwave and leach chemicals into the food. Place the food on a microwavable dish.

Step 7: Run at half power
Run the microwave at 50 percent power or on the defrost setting. Allow about 10 minutes per pound for frozen meats.

Step 8: Stop and rearrange
Stop the microwave several times to pull apart frozen-together pieces. Break up and turn over ground meats. Start large, solid items, such as chicken, upside down, and turn them over halfway through.

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