I grew up quickly defrosting meat — without a microwave. In fact, I’ve almost never used a microwave to defrost meat.
That’s because my method for defrosting meat is often faster than a microwave and defrosts the meat more evenly.
Nothing’s more annoying when it’s time to cook dinner than discovering your “defrosted” meat has a frozen center and cooked edges. Am I right?
With my method for quickly defrosting meat, you won’t have that problem again.
Wouldn’t fresh, never-frozen meat be better?
There’s no way around it. I keep a freezer full of meat from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals in my garage.
Every year, we buy a heritage breed hog from one of our friends, buy half a cow from a local rancher whose cattle are grass-fed, and buy however many pasture-raised hens we have room for.
They’re all processed by a local butcher and stored out in our freezer.
This is the only way to keep the meat affordable (I’m usually paying less than $3/lb for these beauties).
So, while I’d love to have “fresh, never frozen” meat, that’s just not Real Life.
I know I’m not alone in this.
Think these are the only two ways to defrost meat?
Any time I share a Facebook post about kicking your microwave to the curb, I inevitably get a comment like this one:
“I really want to do this. But how do you defrost meat quickly without a microwave?”
Many of my readers seem to think that defrosting is something that can only be done one of two ways:
1. Meat is moved from the freezer to the refrigerator, where it slowly defrosts over the next 24 hours.
2. Meat is defrosted in the microwave.
I don’t use either method.
That’s because option #1 requires planning ahead, and I’m really terrible at that.
And option #2 usually defrosts unevenly (plus I hate microwaves).
So, what’s the big trick?
How do I defrost meat quickly without a microwave?
I use hot water.
Perhaps you’ve heard that quickly defrosting meat this way isn’t safe. That’s simply not true.
USDA researches have tested various methods for defrosting meat using 200 one inch thick beef steaks:
Air-thawing in the refrigerator took 18 to 20 hours, while the room-temperature water bath thawed the steaks in about 20 minutes, and the hot-summer-day bath in 11 minutes. These water-bath times are so short that any bacterial growth would remain within safe limits.
Notice that the warmer the water was, the quicker the defrost time.
In fact researchers at Utah State took it a step further, defrosting chicken breasts in 140F degree water.
That temperature is hot enough to eventually cook the breasts to medium-rare, but if you remove them when they’re defrosted (usually within 3-5 minutes), they’ll show no signs of cooking (source).
I usually opt for a middle ground.
I use the hottest water available from my kitchen sink tap. In my case, that’s 118F because that’s the temperature we’ve set our Smartly Heated hot water heater to.
How to defrost meat quickly without a microwave, using hot water.
- STEP ONE: Run kitchen tap water until it’s as hot as it can get.
- STEP TWO: Plug the drain and fill your sink about half full with hot water.
- STEP THREE: Submerge your frozen meat in the hot water to defrost.
The length of defrost time will vary based on a few factors:
1. How thick the cut of meat is. As a general rule of thumb, meat that’s an inch thick takes about 10 minutes to defrost this way. If it’s half an inch thick, it takes half that time. If it’s a couple inches thick, it takes twice that time.
2. How the meat is packaged. If it’s got insulating layers of plastic or paper wrap around it, it will take slightly longer to defrost. If it’s at all possible, I generally remove the packaging and place the frozen meat directly in the hot water bath.
3. The volume & movement of the water. The more hot water you have, and whether or not you occasionally stir your defrosting meat can also impact length of defrost time. That’s because the frozen meat can form a “cool spot” in the water. So if you stir the water and meat every couple minutes, you’ll help displace the cool spot and keep your meat defrosting more quickly.
(photo by anotherpintplease)