I made some sorbet at the weekend, and realised just when we were due to serve that I had forgot to take it out of the freezer to soften, and so it was rock hard.

What is the best way to bring it to a usable temperature quickly? We chucked it in the microwave and then hacked it with a spatula, but ended up with a lumpy texture as many parts were still very frozen. Any ideas to avoid a repeat in the future would be appreciated.

6 Answers 6


The best way? Plan better. :)

The microwave is rarely a good plan for quick defrosting, as you found out. I would suggest putting the container in warm to hot running tap water.

The warmer the water is the faster it will melt, but it will also melt more unevenly - though nothing like the microwave. The important part is that the water is running, and is at least room temperature.

It's not going to be quick like a microwave, but it'll be faster than just letting it sit.


I've never tried this, but I imagine a hair dryer might work well too. It'll just be noisier :) The concept is the same, just moving air instead of water.

  • 2
    That is rather condescending. He knows to plan better. But this is a forum where others will benefit from reading previous questions and answers. If someone else forgets, which is easy to do if you are having fun with friends, that they can easily check this site since Sam added this question.
    – Kyra
    Jul 12, 2010 at 17:31
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    You should check your sensitivity at the door Kyra. I don't intend it to be condescending. The fact is, that's the best way. However, I provided a solution and answer to his question in the event that Sam makes a mistake. I didn't suggest that it was a bad question or that Sam was somehow inferior to anyone. We all make mistakes. P.S. Welcome to the internet. (Now that's condescension)
    – hobodave
    Jul 12, 2010 at 17:48
  • Why running water? I haven't had to defrost a tub before, but my gut instinct tells me that submerging the entire container in a larger container of hot water would thaw it more evenly and almost as quickly. You could also probably use a torch - just be careful not to set the container on fire if it's one of those plastic things. ;)
    – Aaronut
    Jul 12, 2010 at 19:38
  • @Aaronut Possibly to ensure a constant stream of hot water as opposed to the water temperature falling as it warms the container. A torch sounds pretty interesting though :)
    – Kryptic
    Jul 12, 2010 at 20:16
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    @Aaronut: Science! If you just set the tub in still water then what happens is the water in contact with it gives up it's heat to the ice cream, making that water cooler. You end up with a little area of really cold water around the ice cream. Obviously this circulates throughout the water, but only by the relatively slow thermodynamic process. Also, as it progresses the water temperature decreases (obviously) and it looses some of it's umph. With moving water, you are constantly and rapidly bringing fresh hot water into contact with the container. This allows for faster defrosting.
    – hobodave
    Jul 12, 2010 at 20:20

Don't. Ice cream is hard. It melts slowly. Instead, focus on scooping.

Get the largest spoon you have, or ideally, an ice cream scoop. Fill up a cup with boiling water, or as hot as your faucet will get it. Dip spoon/scoop in the water. Scoop. Dip. Scoop. Shake off excess water as you go.

Like a hot spoon through ice cream.


Huh. I actually have always used the microwave, and never really had any problems. The secret is to stick it in for 20-30 seconds, and then to just walk away, and leave it for a minute or two. The interior will thaw slightly, while firming up the edges.

Mind you, we're talking about quarts and pints here. God knows how you'd defrost a gallon.


Unless you can get heat into the centre of the tub all that's going to happen is that your sorbet (or ice-cream) is just going to melt around the outside.

Why not just have another drink, enjoy the pleasant company and stimulating conversation and let the sorbet soften in its own time :)

  • If only, unfortunately when there are 32 people all waiting for food to be served, and you are already 10 mins late, the prospect of waiting another 25 mins or so is not all that appealing to everyone.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 13, 2010 at 8:31

Kev hinted at the answer -- warm the middle of the tub:

Take a few metal table knives (fully metal, not with plastic or wooden handles), warm them slightly (eg, dip in hot water, then dry them off), and then push them into the block. This allows for conduction through the knives into the middle of the frozen mass.

(although, I admit, I've never done this ... I just use Ocassi's method, as I don't want to re-freeze it each time I take a serving from it)


When you go to the kitchen to get your ice cream, don't tell the guests what you're doing. After you take it out, announce dinner. That way, you can eat dinner while the ice cream defrosts. Check on it when everyone has finished, then tell them you have dessert. Now you can give them ice cream.

  • 1
    while this could work with some foresight, I don't know that it addresses the "quickly" aspect of the question.
    – SourDoh
    Jan 18, 2014 at 6:47

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