How To Defrost Food Safely From a Freezer

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November 2, 2022
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Freezers allow us to store food for a long time before it needs to be cooked. This is really convenient and means we can stock up on our favorite meats, vegetables, and packaged goods so we have a handy supply of them on hand.

When defrosting food from your freezer to cook and eat, it’s important to follow safety guidelines to prevent you and your family from potentially becoming sick. It will also ensure your food cooks better and keeps its flavor.

In this guide, we are going to give you useful tips on how best to defrost different types of food. These include:

  • Always defrost your food in the fridge.
  • Make sure the poultry is completely thawed before cooking it.
  • When defrosting in the microwave, cook and eat the food straight away.
  • Always check the packaging for defrosting instructions.
  • Always defrost meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
  • Don’t refreeze food that has been defrosted.
  • Be careful when eating frozen berries
  • Never defrost frozen chicken in warm water.

Defrost food in the fridge

When defrosting food, it’s much safer to defrost it in your fridge instead of leaving it sitting out on your kitchen counter at room temperature. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds (2 to 2.5 kilograms) of food. As soon as the food has thawed, make sure you cook it within 24 hours. It’s also important to not refreeze it as this can be very dangerous unless, of course, you are refreezing it once it has been  cooked.

Thaw poultry completely

It is very important to make sure poultry is completely defrosted before cooking it. When it isn’t defrosted and you place it in the oven or pan, it might not cook evenly which can result in some parts of the poultry not reaching a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. This can then cause you and your family to get sick. 

Before cooking poultry prod it with a fork to make sure it’s defrosted the whole way through. The only exception to this rule is frozen packaged goods that contain cooked poultry – most of the time these food items don’t need to be defrosted at all before cooking. If in doubt, check the packaging.

When defrosting in the microwave, cook it straight away

When you use your microwave to defrost food it’s very important to cook and eat it straight away. This is because harmful bacteria will start to develop on the food when defrosting it in the microwave because your food heats up slightly. If you don’t cook the food as soon as it’s defrosted, these bacteria will develop further even if you keep the food in the fridge which can be harmful. This rule applies especially to raw meat and poultry but should also be followed when reheating cooked food too.

Always check the instructions on the packaging

The next tip for safely defrosting food from the freezer is to check the packaging for any defrosting instructions. For example, some food items like frozen breaded fish are best cooked from frozen so they don’t need to be defrosted at all. Pay particular attention to the instructions on the packaging of food items like large frozen whole chickens as the defrost instructions may vary based on the size or weight of the item.

Always defrost meat on the bottom shelf

When defrosting meat, the best place to put it in your fridge is on the bottom shelf. The main reason for this is that when it defrosts liquids will seep out of it which can then leak out. If the meat is on the top, the food underneath it will get covered in liquid. It’s also a good idea to cover the meat with plastic wrap and place it into a deep container. 

This way you won’t have to clean up any mess and risk contaminating other food items in your fridge. Once raw meat is defrosted, cook it within 24 hours and remember not to freeze it raw again. You can however refreeze the meat once it has been cooked.

Don’t refreeze food

Once you have defrosted food, make sure you don’t refreeze it. When you refreeze it, the food can become dangerous to eat as bacteria will develop on it that will spoil it. The exception to this rule is when you defrost raw meat and cook it, once it’s cooked you can refreeze it safely.

​Be careful when eating frozen berries

When you defrost berries (especially imported ones) it’s a good idea to cook them by boiling them for a couple of minutes. The reason for this is that over the past few years there have been reported cases of people becoming sick with norovirus after eating raw frozen berries. For this reason, boil your berries before consuming them. Using them in baking is a great option too!

Don’t defrost chicken in warm water

Some people place frozen chicken into a container of warm or hot water to try and speed up the defrosting process. This is a mistake. When you defrost chicken in warm or hot water, it heats the chicken up which can cause bacteria to develop which when cooked and consumed can make you and your family sick. If you want to defrost chicken quickly, it’s best to use a microwave.

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