Thawing/Safe Handling Recommendations


Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.


Refrigerator Thawing


  • Place the item you wish to thaw on a plate with a lip or bowl on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator to ensure that any drippings aren’t spilled onto shelving or food below. 


  • A pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts can require a full day to thaw in the refrigerator.


  • After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat, stew meat, and poultry should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking.  Red meat cuts (such as beef, pork and steaks) should remain safe and good quality 3 to 5 days.


  • Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.



Cold Water Thawing


  • If you forget to thaw your meat for dinner, this method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention.


  • Thawing in cold water, 40 degrees or below, is safe and faster than refrigerator thawing.


  • The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw.


  • Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood (about a pound) may thaw in 1 hour or less.


  • A 3 to 4 pound package may take 2 to 3 hours.


  • For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound.


  • Once thawed food must be cooked immediately and should not be left out.


  • Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.


Microwave Thawing


  • Not recommended