Thawing Frozen Meat in Water Review – Does it Work?

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

Buying food in bulk can be a great way to save money on quality items.  One of the top recommended items to buy in bulk is meat - especially chicken or beef.  However, unless you have a very large family, you will have to freeze some of the meat so it doesn’t spoil before you use it.  Thawing the meat safely and in a timely manner can be tricky, if you don’t have a good strategy.  There are many that work okay, but compromise meat safety, or quality.  Can thawing meat in cold water really work in time for dinner?

The Good

  • Better for you – thawing in cold water prevents growth of sketchy bacteria, while preserving good meat quality
  • Better for the earth – no need to use the microwave or the energy to power it
  • Saves money – when you are successful with buying, freezing, and thawing bulk meat, you can save lots of money
  • Easy – put meat in water and forget about it – couldn’t be much easier than that
  • Saves time vs. the let it sit in the fridge for a couple days method

The Bad

  • Needs a little planning ahead time as it takes a couple hours to work

My Experience

Not much to look at, but these are some yummy steaks getting ready for the grill.

As a young girl, I remember watching my mom struggling through making meatloaf with her bare hands.  The ground beef she had pulled from the freezer and thawed in the fridge, or microwave, always seemed to be soft on the outside and icy in the middle.  Meatloaf making was a miserable affair, leaving her with red and frozen fingertips.  Then one day a friend told our family about thawing frozen meat in water.  And everything changed.

(Okay, obviously not everything, but I remember my mom raving to all her friends about this great new kitchen trick).

It’s pretty simple:  Wrap up your frozen meat in plastic wrap, or a plastic zipper bag.  Place it in cold water: it will thaw within a few hours, depending on the thickness of the cut.  There are two ways to keep the water cold: 1) replace the water as it warms to room temperature, or 2) keep it in the fridge so it stays cold.

My favorite method of thawing goes like this:

  • Check my weekly meal plan in the morning before work
  • Pull the needed meat from the freezer
  • Place in plastic zipper bag with all the air squeezed out
  • Place bagged meat in a big bowl
  • Fill bowl with water
  • Place a plate, or lid on top to ensure the meat stays submerged
  • Put the bowl in the fridge
  • Come home to meat all thawed and ready to cook

I leave mine in the water all day, because I’m gone all day, but I’m pretty sure this will work just as well if you put the meat in at lunch time.

If I am really desperate (like, it’s time to make dinner, but I forgot to defrost the meat) I use the same method, except fill the bowl with HOT water from the tap.  Then I replace the water as soon as it starts to cool – typically every ten minutes.  It usually takes only 30 min to defrost meat this way.  However, I caution you that if you do this, you must cook the meat immediately, and very well to ensure any bacteria that may have been woken in the meat is completely killed.

Overall, the defrosting meat in cold water trick works quickly, and works well!

How do you usually defrost your frozen meat?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

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10 Responses to Thawing Frozen Meat in Water Review – Does it Work?

  1. Carol says:

    I’m sure there will be a few people that gasp in horror when I write this, but all my life, I’ve pulled the meat from the freezer and left it on the kitchen sink draining board to defrost. The only thing extra that I might do is put it in another plastic bag to catch any leaks. I know this is not the way to do it, but the meat is never sitting in the sun and in the 25+ years I’ve been doing it, no one has ever gotten sick and no one got sick from my mother doing it for the many, many years before I left home and started doing it for my family. I’m surprised your meat defrosts in time for dinner in cold water because even when I leave it out all day, if it’s a cool day, it’s sometimes still frozen in the middle at dinner time.
    When I leave mine out, I do put it in the fridge if it’s defrosted before I’m ready to cook dinner.

    • Victoria says:

      Oh Carol! Tsk, tsk! :)

      I think the meat thaws faster in the cold water due to thermal conductivity. Water transmits energy better than air, or something like that…

      • Jenny says:

        Meat defrosts faster in cold water than the air. Same with chilling milk, it chills faster in cool water than the fridge or freezer. I can defrost most meats enough to work, if not all the way, within an hour. All my meat comes vacuum packed anyway.

  2. Anne Kimball says:

    Hi Victoria, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (http://annesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com), and I’m visiting from Natural Living Mondays.

    I’ve defrosted meat in cold water before, but never thought to put it in the fridge if I’m gone for awhile. What a great idea, and so simple! I like your writing style, btw. Very engaging. I’ll be back!

    Anyway, it’s nice to “meet” you! Hope you can pop by my blog sometime to say hi…

  3. Aneesa says:

    Great post! An added trick to defrosting in water is to add salt to the water. Up until a few months ago I would just defrost in cool water, but a friend of mine told me that to make the process even faster, do so in salted water. I was amazed how much quicker the meat defrosted with the addition of just salt! Not sure what it is, but it works! I don’t add a lot either, maybe a teaspoon or two. Try it out!

  4. Lauren says:

    I’m glad to have come across this post. I usually defrost my meat in warm water….eeek. I’ll definitely be changing my method from now on!! Thanks for posting!

  5. Heather says:

    My mom did this (I haven’t really thought about it since) back in the pre-microwave (at least for us) days in the late 1980s-early 1990s. I don’t know why I don’t do the same — maybe because it does require planning. But you’ve inspired me and I’m going to make an effort to thaw meat this way!

  6. Meagan says:

    Another way to speed up the defrosting process is to use dripping water. Once you get home from work, if you just move the meat from the bowl to the sink and then let a slow stream of water drip onto the meat, it’ll be defrosted in a half hour or less.

    And if we’re really in a hurry, sometimes we gently massage it, which also seems to help.

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for the tips Meagan! I know about the dripping water trick, but here in SoCal where water is scarce, I just can’t justify it.

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