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Everyone on the internet says you should never thaw meat outside of the fridge. My fridge is about 40f cold, and meat NEVER thaws in it. Its always at least -4f even after sitting in fridge overnight.

The only way I can thaw meat is by letting it sit on the kitchen counter. Is there a better way to thaw meat? Because what everyone is saying does not work.

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    Do we have a Fahrenheit / Celsius mixup here? Could you check, please?
    – Stephie
    Apr 15, 2016 at 9:24
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    @Stephie "my fridge is 40°C"? May 15, 2016 at 18:06
  • @Bar Akiva: Try a different thermometer. Sometimes they're off by 5°F. Or put a glass of water in your fridge overnight and check to see if it has developed ice. Your fridge may be colder than you think. May 15, 2016 at 18:12
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    @WayfaringStranger - Well, if it's -4F after a night in a 40F fridge, that sounds a bit like 40F=4C and -4F=-20C... Some kind of confusion that at least as it is doesn't make sense. Just asked for clarification, one way or the other.
    – Stephie
    May 15, 2016 at 18:25
  • If your meat is vacuum packed then you can defrost it in an hour or two by submerging the frozen meat in luke-warm water
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 1 at 7:57

5 Answers 5

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The difference between cold and frozen where a refrigerator is concerned is actually only a few Kelvin (or "degrees").

The standard refrigerator will have warmer and colder zones, typically the top shelf being warmer, the bottom shelf above the veggie drawer cooler. Likewise the back is usually cooler than the front. The temperature you set it to is an average value. (Check your manual for your model.) In mine, anything on the back of the lowest shelf can, on occasion, be slightly frozen, but I have set it to 4 C.

Also, thermostats in kitchen appliences can easily be off by a few degrees. We have discussed this for ovens here on the site often enough, the same is true for fridges and freezers. A calibrated thermometer can tell you more.

So once you have made sure that your meat actually can thaw by putting it on the top shelf and adjusting the temperature setting, it's all about patience. The time it takes for a piece of meat varies greatly and for a big "lump" like a whole roast, defrosting overnight won't happen. Prominent example: Around Thanksgiving the defrosting times for turkey are discussed all over the web and plenty of anecdotes told about cooks forgetting that it may take days for a large bird...

That's one of the reasons why it's generally recommended to freeze food in smaller, especially flatter packages where possible (e.g. steak or chicken breasts side by side, not on top of each other): It freezes faster (-> food safety) and thaws faster (-> convenience).

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If your fridge has a meat compartment, that often runs at very slightly above freezing - so slight it would take several days to thaw. In the rest of the fridge, meat frozen to -18C (typical) will still take quite a while. Polystyrene tray packaging (used to be common here in the UK, much less so now) is a good insulator and further slows things down. I would expect at least 24 hours in a fridge to be required for 1-2 servings.

You can speed things up by starting it at a cool room temperature but you have to be careful. The surface of the meat mustn't get too warm. If you like measuring, put it in the fridge when the most exposed surface is a little less than your fridge temperature. If you like to keep the packet sealed, put it in the fridge when it's still frozen solid but the first of the hardness has gone off it. In practice this could mean leaving out while you cook and eat dinner the previous night, then put it away. The point is to ensure that no part of the meat gets above the maximum fridge temperature until you take it out to cook it.

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I often have the same problem. Besides other suggestions of finding a good spot to thaw and to freeze your meat in smaller pieces - I would suggest if you have a microwave and you're in a pinch, you can finish the thawing process in it. Make sure to use a "defrost" or "thaw" setting as this is lower power and is less likely to start cooking your meat. These settings are often based on weight, and sometimes the type of meat too so be sure to follow the instructions specific to your microwave.

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    Microwave thaw settings are generally optimized for frozen solid foods. They don't tend to perform as well on partially thawed items.
    – Catija
    May 14, 2016 at 22:57
  • This is correct, and I don't always completely trust the settings on a microwave for this anyways. When I thaw this way I generally check the meat every few minutes to see how thawed it is (and rotate the meat with a utensil so it thaws more evenly). Also if the microwave doesn't rotate you'll need to do this manually every few minutes.
    – jmicrobe
    May 17, 2016 at 0:25
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As long as your fridge is above 0 degrees celsius it will not freeze the things in it. I have not seen a fridge that goes below freezing point. If it gets below freezing point then your fridge becomes a freezer.

If your fridge is above but close to freezing point then you should expect the defrost to take several days. My parent's fridge goes to 5 degrees Celsius and that thing may take up to a week to defrost fully frozen meat. You could get a high-end fridge that goes as low as 1 degree Celsius.

I think you are just not patient enough with your fridge defrosts.

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I defrost meat in a bowl of cold water. The water remains cold, ensuring no part of the meat becomes warm enough for rapid decomposition and the heat transfer between the meat and the water is many times faster than between meat and air, meaning that it defrosts much faster. In the UK leaving the meat in water overnight will ensure even a large joint is defrosted while remaining cool, and a small bit of meat will be mostly defrosted in an hour.

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