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Since reading the answers to my question about defrosting meat on the counter I've been good about giving my meat time to defrost in the refrigerator. However, my plans for tonight have changed and I'd like to defrost some ground beef that is completely frozen for dinner this evening. What are my options to do so quickly and safely?

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6 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Put the meat in a sealed plastic bag, place in a bowl in the sink, fill with cold tapwater, then set the tap running in a thin stream with the water overflowing the sides of the bowl. The moving water will safely thaw the meat through convection. Make sure you get as much air out of the plastic bag as you can. You might need to put some weight on it in the bowl to keep it submerged in the water.

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There's a Good Eats episode where they show the differences in thawing methods (cold water, hot water, oven) with little ice sculptures. Cold running water was clearly the fastest. –  tobiw Oct 4 '10 at 0:02
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If you're really in a hurry then you can't beat the microwave. It might defrost a little unevenly, but assuming you plan to brown it or something afterward, then that will take care of evening it out.

The microwave is perfectly safe; the key point about food safety here is not allowing the meat to sit in the "danger zone" (basically more than a few degrees above freezing) for a very long time, and if it's only defrosting for 5-10 minutes in the microwave then that's perfectly safe. Just make sure you cook it immediately afterward.

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I wouldn't do something like this if I planned to make hamburgers or meat loaf, or with a solid cut of meat like steak or chicken. But if it's ground beef going into a chili, ragu, etc., then absolutely I will microwave-defrost it if I didn't have time to fridge-defrost. –  Aaronut Oct 3 '10 at 22:53
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I'd also use the microwave in this kind of situation. It does completely ruin it for burgers or similar, but it's fine for a ragu or chilli con carne or something like that. Just do it on really, really low power. I don't care what my microwave says for defrost, I turn it to the lowest and use that. Defrost often seems a bit too powerful to me. –  Matthew Walton Oct 5 '10 at 8:09
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It's even easier if you plan ahead. I split the ground beef up into 1 lb chunks, put them in ziplock bags and squish them flat before freezing. They thaw nicely in the microwave in about 3 minutes. –  Tim Gilbert Oct 10 '10 at 4:55
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The defrost setting on my microwave beeps at me to flip the meat every few minutes. At first it was annoying, but when the meat defrosted all the way through and evenly with no hot spots, I can't complain. I used to just start the defrost on a third to half the wieght of what I actually have, then peel off the defrosted stuff and put the frozen back in for less. Works pretty well too. –  FoodTasted Dec 14 '10 at 6:02
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Microwave on defrost or slightly higher, and then every minute stop the microwave and remove the defrosted parts, return frozen part and continue. You can perfectly defrost ground beef without cooking it this way –  TFD Dec 20 '10 at 20:15
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I've started using a new technique for defrosting without doing so unevenly. It takes a lot more time and patience than just hitting defrost and coming back 10 minutes later to a partially cooked plate of raw shrimp or fish (would work for ground beef as well.)

What I do is to run the microwave on defrost for about half the time it would take for a "normal" microwave defrost (where the edges of the fish and/or some shrimp are pink in spots.) Then I run the microwave for about 20 minutes at 10% and check on it periodically until it's defrosted.

I've also done the ziploc bag trick, but it sometimes leaks and it's really hard to submerge it. Putting it in front of an oscillating fan can work as well.

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Just to be aware, a lot of people worry excessively on the safety issue.

Restaurant rules (at least here in Seattle) say that food coming out of <40-degree storage must be back in the cool storage and back down to <40 degrees within ... six hours. Seems a long time to me but that's the rule.

This isn't really an issue for this thread cause ahsteele is after quick defrost anyway. But just sayin'...

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Do you have a reference for that? (I'm curious!) –  Arafangion Oct 4 '10 at 14:09
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The quickest way is to defrost is in the microwave, although it may not defrost evenly and some may 'cook' slightly. Defrosting meat quickly usually means you lose moisture too. If you are planning on using the beef straight away I wouldn't worry about the safety issue as long as you cook it through.

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This works only in the winter months:

  1. Get home from work.
  2. Turn on heater for cold house.
  3. Set frozen ground beef on floor vent
  4. Turn in 10 mins.
  5. Total time 20, fully thawed.

My house drops ten degrees during the day so the time it takes to get to 70 is how long it takes to thaw my dinner.

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