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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. – Cascabel Jan 11 '14 at 14:39
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    Do not ever thaw at room temperature. See Is there a problem with defrosting meat on the counter? – Aaronut Jan 11 '14 at 14:48
  • Surface of meat reaches human body temp, or beyond. That's exactly what the nastiest human pathogens like. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 27 at 0:59
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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.

  • That would suggest sawing or cleaving the frozen block into portions before using any such method... – rackandboneman Mar 31 '16 at 19:08
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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.

  • In fact, cold water must be running which dramatically increases the convective heat transfer, thus providing a short thawing time. – SAJ14SAJ Jan 11 '14 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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 16:16
  • That is quite possible. – SAJ14SAJ Jan 11 '14 at 16:30
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It is COMPLETELY SAFE to defrost a frozen cut of meat in ~140 F water as long as it is 1" or less in thickness... it takes no more than 10-12 minutes... such a short period of time that bacteria have no time to proliferate to dangerous levels. Just place it in a ziploc bag to prevent it from becoming water logged. The strange reasoning that it would be safer to let it slowly come up through room temperature on the counter - giving the bacteria waaaay more time to proliferate - is completely nonsensical. The USDA time ceiling for leaving raw meat out at room temperature is 2 hours max or 1 hour @90 F... 12 minutes in a 140 degree water bath is completely safe to thaw any cut of meat 1" or less in thickness. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/How_Temperatures_Affect_Food.pdf The faster you bring a cut of meat up to room temperature, the less time there is for bacteria to multiply... NOTHING is safer about letting something sit on the counter to thaw...that would be THE MOST DANGEROUS way possible to defrost something & should NEVER BE DONE.

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/dining/a-hot-water-bath-for-thawing-meats-the-curious-cook.html

  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.02037.x

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The biggest "problem" with using hot water to thaw meat(s) is that hot water begins the cooking process. If your meat hasn't sufficiently thawed under refridgeration, place it inside a freezer style zipper bag and rest it in a sink of cold water. Flip it after 20-30 minutes to ensure that is is thawed all the way through.

While I will oftentimes toss a frozen steak into a hot cast iron skillet (which helps me acheive a more accurate medium-rare temp), be careful with your slow cooker. Never put frozen foods (i.e.; a solid chunk of meat) into a slow cooker. The slow cooker will not allow the meat to thaw out slowly. What happens is that the cooker heats up, but the food remains frozen - not a good thing when it comes to ceramic liners. They can easily shatter from "thermal shock". You will not have the same problem if you are adding, for example, a package of frozen corn, assuming you break the kernals up and there are other ingredients in the cooker.

The Big Thaw - Safe Defrosting Methods

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