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I started thawing a thick cut of London Broil (maybe 1.5 lbs) in cold water and then I realized I didn’t want to start cooking it yet. I’ve moved it to the fridge.

While thawing in cold water, I had not sealed the meat completely in a zipper bag, but instead wrapped it in cling wrap. It was pretty well covered (double wrapped), but some water may have gotten in and it wasn’t sealed off entirely from the air. (Research has left me concerned that this may have been bad)

Is this a problem?

Background info: In total it was out of the freezer in cold water for maybe 45 minutes, and the outside has begun to thaw. I’ve put it back in the fridge after washing the container it was in with soap and hot water. I plan to cook it in a crock pot for 8 hours after browning it on the stove top.

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    Water, air, and cooking method are not the issues to worry about. It is temperature and time that you have to consider. This covers what you need to know: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/34670/… There are also several questions that address thawing. – moscafj Apr 10 at 13:29
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    What's the water quality in Michigan like? – Richard Apr 10 at 21:31
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    @Richard We have well water, but I think it's good. – dgo Apr 10 at 23:02
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Safely? Yes.

Cold water thaws are fine. It's hot or warm water thawing that's bad.

Cold running water will thaw faster than cold still water, but cold still water is okay as you basically have a giant ice cube in the water (the thing you're thawing), so the water stays at a safe temperature until you're towards the end of the thaw ... it just takes a really long time compared to thaw running water.

The only issue here would be the meat getting wet. If it's clean water, and you don't drip it on other things it shouldn't be a problem from a safety standpoint. It can change the quality of the food being thawed (wash away flavors, cause the food to absorb too much water), so if you're going to do it intentionally, it can be worth adding salt to brine the item being thawed.

So, from a safety standpoint, what you're doing is fine ... so long as your fridge temp is set well.

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    @dgo : it's really a time thing -- you don't want to spend too long at unsafe temperatures, but hot enough to be safe is nearly cooking temperatures ... so it can't be too hot and if it's not warm enough you might not get the center thawed for thicker cuts and roasts by the time the outside has been at unsafe temperatures for too long. So thin, small things in warm water are generally okay ... it's just the big things (like what you have) – Joe Apr 10 at 15:44
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    @dgo : of course, there's also the people who are pushing for cooking from frozen on some times of things (generally requires different heat / cooking techniques) so that you can get a medium rare with minimal overcooking of the outside – Joe Apr 10 at 15:45
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    Do keep in mind that "safe" thawing practices are developed to be cooking-method agnostic. As long as you're not having to deal with the health department it's perfectly possible to compensate for substandard thawing conditions by altering the cooking procedure. Refrigeration is a relatively recent development in human history. If the currently recommended methods were the only way to deal with germs on your food we'd all have died out long ago. – Perkins Apr 10 at 17:50
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    @Perkins Cooking improperly thawed food can kill the bacteria that have grown, but may not destroy their toxic byproducts. In some cases, it's not possible to compensate for substandard thawing conditions by altering the cooking procedure. Not sure what you're getting at with your last point, as many people did die long ago from food-related illness - the modern world has the tools and knowledge to minimize that, hence the food safety recommendations. Don't get me wrong, I'd eat a slightly improperly thawed steak at home, but I acknowledge that it is a risk. – Nuclear Wang Apr 10 at 18:45
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    @NuclearWang Everything in life is a calculated risk. The most heat-stable toxins of which I am aware are produced by staphylococcus. How stable they are depends heavily on the environment they're in, but even under optimal conditions about half the toxin is destroyed for every 30 minutes it spends above 90C. In the modern first world we're rich enough to just throw it out if there's any question. Otherwise, make stew. – Perkins Apr 11 at 4:53
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I'll agree with other Joe on the safety side of things: as long as the water didn't get much above 40° Fahrenheit, which it won't until after it's thawed, you're fine.

As far as the water getting in the cling wrap: that's where I tend to have more worries. I sous-vide a lot, and the worst thing to happen there is for water to get into the bag. Water that's been sitting out for a while, especially if it's in a plastic container (like my sous-vide setup), will have all sorts of smells and tastes - less if it's cold than if it's warm like my sous-vide, but still some - and additionally even plain water will have effects on the texture and taste of the meat.

If it was still largely frozen, odds are it won't have too much of an impact - especially if not very much water got in. But I would use a zip-top bag, or something else that is definitely water impermeable, if I were going to thaw it in water of any sort, to avoid any potential issues with the flavor and texture. And, I'd probably remove it from the wrapping now and put it in a new wrapping, to make sure there's not water trapped inside the plastic.

  • Thanks for the addition to the other Joe. I ended up following your advice about taking it out of the plastic, and I think it would've been a minimal amount that got in. As I said earlier, I can be a worry-head about these things, so I appreciate the additional peace of mind. – dgo Apr 10 at 19:46
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    In most of the world, 40 is just above body temperature. Staying below 40 makes for an excellent environment for bacterial growth. I presume you are in the US and mean 40 F. Please, please, please use units, this advice could be misunderstood and cause harm. :) – Cris Luengo Apr 10 at 21:01

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