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How to thaw meat and chicken safely

 When freezing meat, divide it into meal-size portions so you only defrost what you need (Photo: Shutterstock)

Freezers are our go to devices for storing fresh foods. From vegetables, dairy products right to meats. Throw any of these items in the freezer and revisit later when you want to cook. After one too many hours of food staying in the fridge, it begins to freeze. By the time you are ready to prepare it, you bump into a block of ice. While you can prepare it in that state, be prepared to spend more time cooking than usual. But if you know how to defrost, quickly and safely, you can have your steak in time. 

1. On the countertop 

The countertop method mainly entails leaving your meat on the kitchen counter to defrost on its own. Whereas it produces the end results, which is thawed meat, it is an unsafe method. Meat left at the fluctuating room temperature is susceptible to harmful bacteria. 

Defrosting meat on the countertop poses a big health risk since during this process, it is exposed to temperatures between 40 to 140 F where food is highly susceptible to food poisoning. Any bacteria present in the meat before freezing can easily breed again. It is important to note that you should never leave meat at room temperature for more than two hours. Defrosting meat in hot water is also an unsafe way since it exposes it to a similar risk as the countertop methods.

2. Put in the refrigerator overnight 

One of the safest ways to defrost your meat is removing it from the freezer and leaving it in the refrigerator overnight until it is completely thawed. Put the meat on a plate or a pan to collect any juices leaking from the it.  Leave ground meat, poultry and sea food for an extra day in the refrigerator after thawing before cooking. For red meat, (beef, pork, lamb and steak) it should stay for 3 to 5 days more. If you thaw meat in the fridge, you can safely freeze it again. In case you do not have all that time to wait, here are two other easy and safe methods to thaw your chicken breasts or meat. 

 The microwave method works best for small pieces of meat? (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Cold water method

The impromptu visitors cannot wait for three days to savor up that steak you had put in the fridge. Running cold water is one of the fastest yet easiest and safest defrosting method. First, put the meat in a sealable plastic bag. A ziplong bag is quite safe for use. Make sure you do not stuff the meat into small packages but use appropriate sizes. Dip the bag in a bowl of cold, tap water. You can also get running water on to the bag to ensure water is flowing. Depending on the size, defrosting could take from 30 minutes to several hours. Meat is ready to cook afterwards. 

4. Microwave

The microwave method works best for small pieces of meat like chicken breasts and ground beef that will be cooked fully after thawing. This takes less than ten minutes. Some food experts do not recommend the microwave from a safety food point of view. This is because, the microwave thaws foods as it cooks unevenly at a higher temperature which is favorable for breeding harmful bacteria. Check your microwave manual for the defrost setting and cook the food immediately after thawing. 

After thawing the meat, you can freeze it again given that it has not been exposed or its temperature has not risen above 40 F. the length of time should not exceed the storage time either. Freezing the meat again does not reduce its viability. But of the meat was uncovered, thawed and then wrapped up and frozen, it will be drier due to the moisture loss.

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