Do you want to get dinner ready quickly? Here are four fast and easy ways to defrost meat safely. Learn how to defrost ground beef and thaw steak fast.
Let’s talk about defrosting meat. This isn’t a very glamorous topic, but it’s an essential nuts-and-bolts topic that every home cook needs to know. If you’ve ever had questions like how to defrost ground beef, how to thaw steak fast, or can you thaw and re-freeze meat, this post is for you.
One of the big benefits of buying beef in bulk from a farmer is having a freezer stocked with ground beef, well marbled steaks, and roasts. If you know how to thaw and defrost meat quickly, it makes it even easier to throw together a quick weeknight meal.
Did you buy meat fresh or frozen?
Even though our beef is straight-off the farm, we only sell it frozen. This surprises some people, but the reason we do is because of food safety.
Our beef is always fully-processed, inspected, packaged and frozen when we pick it up from the USDA beef processor. Our processor freezes it immediately after being cut and packaged because frozen foods remain safe indefinitely, whereas room-temperature meat could start to grow bacteria surprisingly quickly. So, when we pick it up from them it’s frozen, and we keep it frozen until we deliver it to you.
If you buy meat that’s not frozen and you don’t plan to eat it right away, we recommend freezing it when you get home. It will help the meat last longer, and it’s easy to thaw meat fast.
4 fast, easy and safe ways to defrost meat
Please note, all of these recommendations come from the USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Services.
#1. Refrigerator thawing (the best method)
This is our go-to method for defrosting meat, especially beef. It’s what we recommend as long as you have a little time to spare.
Place beef in a container and in the refrigerator. It will thaw in 8+ hours, depending on the cut of beef. For us, that means we often put a pound of hamburger or a few steaks in the refrigerator before leaving for work. It’s then thawed by the time we’re home and ready to make dinner.
One of the best parts of refrigerator thawing is that the thawed beef can stay in the refrigerator for about 3 days. And if you change your mind on a meal, you can always refreeze the beef without cooking it.
A pound of hamburger takes about 9 hours to thaw in the refrigerator, and a roast will take 24+ hours to thaw.
#2. Cold-water thawing (this is how to defrost ground beef and how to thaw steak fast)
This is our second favorite method. We use cold-water thawing whenever we haven’t planned ahead and don’t have time to do refrigerator thawing. Thankfully, cold-water thawing is very easy to do.
Simply, place cold water in a bowl or pan and submerge your beef in the water until it’s thawed. Make sure the water is cold, not hot.
In order to make sure the water stays cold while the beef is thawing, you can place the bowl under a faucet and let cold water trickle on it as it thaws.
If you don’t like the idea of leaving your facuet on, you can also change the the cold water bath every 30 minutes so that the water remains cold and the meat keeps thawing.
#3. Microwave thawing
This is our least favorite method. We don’t like it since the beef usually starts to cook a little while you’re trying to thaw it. Only use this method if it’s a must.
That said, thawing with a microwave does get points for being the fastest method. Simply press the defrost button and monitor your meat closely so that it doesn’t start to cook.
Also, make sure you plan to cook the beef immediately after microwaving for food safety reasons. Unlike the refrigerator thawing method, you cannot refreeze meat that has been thawed in a microwave.
#4. Cook it frozen
Yes, you can cook frozen meat! You’ll love the results. We do it all the time with just about every cut of beef — from grilling steaks to cooking roasts in the crockpot.
In fact, some studies show that grilling steaks from frozen can be even better than traditional cooking methods.
The biggest thing to remember if you do this is that the cooking time will take approximately 50% longer, and you will want to closely monitor the temperature with an instant read thermometer.
What not to do when defrosting meat
You have lots of options defrosting meat, but there is one thing you should never do. Don’t ever thaw meat at room temperature. According to the USDA, “perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.”
Can you thaw and refreeze meat?
Did you change your mind on what you’re having for dinner, and you want to refreeze the meat? You can, depending on how you thawed the meat.
- Refrigerator thawing: Meat thawed in the refrigerator is safe to refreeze
- Cold water thawing: Meat thawed by cold water thawing should be cooked before refreezing
- Microwave thawing: Meat thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing
One more thing! eBook & farm updates
If you’d like to keep up with our farm, we have a weekly e-newsletter where we share about farm happenings, beef recipes, and when our next beef will be available to order. When you sign up, you’ll get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer.
Other beef posts you’ll love
- Pepper Steak Stir Fry
- How to Save Money on Groceries & Beef Prices
- How We Raise Our Grass Fed Beef
- Understanding Cuts of Beef