It’s a busy time of the year and you grab some meat out of the freezer with a planned meal in mind, defrost it, something happens you place it on a plate and pop it into the fridge and leave it. You don’t want to waste it so you plan using it 24 hours after defrosting, then it goes into day 3 – can you still use it? Once meat is thawed, it is subject to bacterial growth. The amount of time you have to cook meat varies depending on how it was thawed. There are three ways you can safely thaw meat. If you need to thaw something quick, you can use the microwave. You can thaw meat in the refrigerator with some planning ahead. You can also thaw meat in cold water. Microwave and cold water thawing require immediate cooking and refrigerator thawing varies by a few days, depending on the type of meat.
Meat can be safely thawed in the microwave but you should remove all plastic wrap and foam trays before beginning the defrost process, place it on a dish or plate and this will collect any of the water that leaves the meat as it thaws. Most microwaves have a thawing button – use this as it will be a lower power setting than anything else, if your microwave doesn’t have one use low power so that the meat is heated more evenly. After thawing in the microwave, you should cook the meat immediately in case portions of the meat became too warm and begin to cook. This creates an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, especially bacteria that was already present before the thawing process.
You can thaw meat in the refrigerator with some advanced planning because it takes some time. For example, a frozen turkey takes 24 hours to thaw for every 2.2 kilos or 5lbs. of weight. half a kilo or 1 lb. of ground meat (mince) or chicken takes 24 hours, perhaps longer if the temperature in your refrigerator is below the optimum temperature of 8 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees F. According to Food Safety guidelines, ground meat (mince), poultry and seafood needs to be cooked within a day or two after thawing in the refrigerator. Pieces of red meat like beef steaks, lamb chops and pork chops or roasts should be cooked within three to five days of thawing. It is OK to refreeze meat without cooking that has been thawed in the refrigerator, but some quality may be jeopardized.
Cold Water Thawing
Meat can be safely thawed in cold water but never in warm water or on the counter top because the meat gets too warm, which is ideal for bacterial growth. To thaw meat in cold water, place it in a leak-proof bag, submerge it in cold water, and change the water every 30 minutes so it stays cold. This method is half a kilo or 1 lb. of meat could thaw in an hour; maybe less. A few kilo/ pounds may thaw in two to three hours. Estimate about 30 minutes a kilo / pound for a whole chicken or turkey. Cook meat thawed in cold water immediately, even before you refreeze it.
You can cook frozen meat without thawing it if you run out of time to thaw. Plan on cooking the meat at least 50 percent longer than if it were in a thawed state.
The rule of nose is, if it smells or has an unpleasant odour – throw it out, do not feed it to animals as they too can get sick from eating bad meat.
What are you doing with your defrosted meat this Christmas?