8 Methods You Should Never Use To Thaw Out Frozen Food

Man taking out frozen meat from freezer.


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Thawing Mistakes

Did you know that improperly defrosting food can not only affect the taste of it, but can also get you sick? Prioritizing food safety when thawing out items (especially meat) is therefore essential to prevent bacterial growth and other food-borne diseases such as E-coli and Salmonella. 

From leaving food at room temperature for extended periods of time to using hot water to thaw your food, here are eight thawing methods you should avoid — plus pointers on how to thaw food safely. 

Related: Reheat Responsibly: 11 Foods You Should Never Reheat in the Microwave

Man cuts of fresh piece of meat on a wooden cutting board in the home kitchen
Sergey Nazarov/istockphoto

1. Letting Meat Sit on the Countertop

Allowing raw meat to slowly defrost at room temperature can be a serious health hazard. As the food begins to warm up, harmful bacteria can rapidly multiply on whatever surface it sits on — making the meat unsafe to eat and increasing the risk of cross-contamination on surfaces like kitchen countertops and cutting boards. 

According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), the best way to get rid of bacteria from raw meat is to cook it to the recommended internal temperature. 

Related: 35 Foods That Are Dangerous If Not Prepared Properly

Taking package of chicken meat

Instead: Use the Refrigerator

Using the refrigerator is the most recommended and approved method of thawing frozen food, especially meat. By transferring items from the freezer to your fridge, the food remains at a safe temperature, which inhibits bacterial growth. The only downside? It requires a bit of extra planning. Depending on the size and type of food, it can take several hours to days to fully defrost. 

Pro tip: Make sure to place the thawed food in a container or tray while in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination from any drippings.

Related: 11 Inexpensive Meats for Cheap Summer Cookouts

Thawing frozen chicken or poultry meat on running water on a sink.
John Kevin/istockphoto

2. Running It Under Hot Water

Immersing frozen food in hot water can lead to partial cooking of the exterior while leaving the inner portions still frozen. The temperature difference — especially if using warm or hot water — can also provide a conducive environment for bacterial growth that can compromise food safety.

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Water running from tap into kitchen sink
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Instead: Use Cold Water

Cold-water thawing is faster than refrigerator thawing. To employ this method, place the items you'd like to thaw in a sealed plastic bag and fully submerge it in cold water. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold and ensure a consistent thawing rate. Most items, such as steaks and ground beef, will thaw within an hour or two using this method, but larger items may take longer.

Flames of gas stove

3. Placing It Directly on a Stove or Oven

Cooking frozen food directly on a stove or in an oven without prior thawing will not only result in uneven cooking, but will also more than likely end up tasting disgusting. While the outside might appear cooked or even overcooked, the inside could remain raw or undercooked. Not to mention the cross-contamination that could result from raw drippings as they land on kitchen surfaces. Avoid. At. All. Costs.

Woman using a microwave

Instead: Use the Microwave

Microwaves offer another quick and efficient option for thawing out food. However, it's crucial to use the "defrost" setting to prevent partial cooking. Once thawed, the items should be cooked immediately, because some areas of the food may become warm while defrosting and can harbor or promote the growth of bacteria. 

Black blow dryer on wooden surface

4. Using a Blowdryer or Other Appliances

This one should be pretty self-explanatory because, well, it looks and sounds sketchy, but this method can blow contaminants from the blowdryer's vents onto the food. It's also an inefficient and energy-wasting way to defrost items. Using other appliances such as dishwashers or dryers that aren't designed for thawing food is also a bad idea, as these can harbor dirt and bacteria that can contaminate your food. 

Related: Top-Rated Small Appliances That Belong in Your Kitchen

Trying to turn the heat up on home radiator heater, new world economic crisis

5. Placing It on a Radiator or Heater

Similar to using a heat source to cook meat that hasn't been properly thawed out, using a radiator or heater to defrost food can not only pose a fire hazard, but will result in uneven thawing. There's also the risk of plastic packaging melting and contaminating the food. 


6. Re-Freezing Food That's Already Been Thawed

Re-freezing foods, particularly meats, that have already been thawed can allow harmful bacteria to multiply — especially if the food was not thawed under safe conditions. Refreezing won't kill the bacteria; instead, they become dormant and will become active and multiply again once the food is thawed for a second time. (Talk about the stuff of actual nightmares).

In addition, the freezing and thawing processes can degrade the overall quality of the meat. Ice crystals that form during freezing can rupture cell walls, leading to a loss of moisture that will likely result in a dry, chewy, and unappetizing texture once cooked.

Seafood on ice

7. Using Chemicals or Salt

Using chemicals or additives such as calcium or sodium chloride (commonly used in the seafood industry to reduce drip loss) to defrost meat can increase the risk of food contamination. Sprinkling salt to expedite thawing can also also alter the taste of the meat by drawing out too much moisture and changing it's texture. 

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8. Not Paying Attention to Hand Hygiene

Improper hand hygiene during and after handling raw meat can have dire health consequences. Since raw meats often contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella, these can easily transfer from the meat to your hands to other surfaces such as cutting boards, plates, and utensils. According to a 2020 study by the USDA, a shocking 97% of participants did not properly wash their hands during meal prepping to prevent cross-contamination. 

To prevent food-borne illnesses that most commonly manifest in gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, be sure to fully lather your hands with an antibacterial soap and run them under warm water for at least 20 seconds, making sure to lather and scrub every nook and cranny.