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I read all over the internet and labels that you shouldn't thaw with hot water? However, tons of people leave meat to get to room temperature, so how is thawing with hot water bad?

For instance, when I buy some Pork Loin and it's kinda frozen, I run it under hot water for 5 minutes, it defrosts, then I start to cook it. I'm unsure of the danger in that? Yes It may "start" to cook running it under hot water, but I'm about to cook it anyways.

Or is this a case where they mean thawing with hot water and letting it sit there for hours?

Edit: I am using a Slow cooker however, I'm going to put it on high. (The only reason I even thawed it is because it was frozen "stiff" and was too long for the crock pot, once I thawed it could bend in).

But it seems like a Crock Pot for instance would keep things at a "below" cooked temperature for a little bit anyways as well....(at least on low) before it started to cook things. So why don't crock pots make us sick?

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Leaving meat out at room temperature to thaw is definitely not safe, so I'm not sure why you're using that to say hot water would be safe. –  Jefromi Jan 11 at 14:39
    
Do not ever thaw at room temperature. See Is there a problem with defrosting meat on the counter? –  Aaronut Jan 11 at 14:48

2 Answers 2

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To me, the key to your question "five minutes." I'm no scientist, but I can't imagine that this is harmful.

I agree with Aaronut's answer in that I think it takes a much, much longer period of time for problems to develop. When people warn you about thawing in hot water, they're envisioning something more like taking a solidly-frozen piece of meat from the freezer, and thawing it in hot water.

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Thawing in hot water is unsafe for exactly the same reason that thawing on the counter is unsafe. You'd be very quickly raising the exterior temperature of the food to the danger zone (4-60° C), and allowing it to stay in that range for an extended period of time, in many cases more than the prescribed limit of 2 hours, and actually considerably less than 2 hours at "hot" temperatures.

Hot water or even warm water is arguably much worse than defrosting on the counter, because the exterior will heat up much faster than the interior. This might be OK for something like a 1/2" steak or a single chicken breast (even though it's still contra-indicated by every food agency) if the defrosting time is very short; but if you only have a small portion and want it defrosted quickly, you're far better off using the microwave which will do it just as quickly but much more safety and evenly. And for something like a whole chicken or a leg of lamb, it's almost guaranteed that the interior will still be nearly frozen by the time the exterior is above room temperature.

The reason for using cold water is to keep the entire item either below or at the very edge of the danger zone, where it can be held safely for several hours without much risk of bacterial contamination.

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In fact, cold water must be running which dramatically increases the convective heat transfer, thus providing a short thawing time. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 11 at 15:49
    
@SAJ14SAJ: The USDA is OK with changing the water every 30 minutes or so, in order to conserve water and still actually thaw it. Running water is, obviously, the fastest, but I don't think it's strictly necessary for food safety. –  Aaronut Jan 11 at 16:07
    
my food sanitation training was 25 years ago, I will admit. At that time, for commercial food service (at least in my jurisdiction), running water was mandatory. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 11 at 16:13
    
@SAJ14SAJ: I'm just going by the published USDA info. Perhaps the rules in foodservice are stricter than those the USDA publishes for cooks at home? –  Aaronut Jan 11 at 16:16
    
That is quite possible. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 11 at 16:30

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