Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Best Way To Thaw Meat

Harold McGee on the latest food science of meat thawing (exciting eh?):
It turns out that we can thaw frozen steaks and other compact cuts in as little as 10 minutes, without compromising their quality, and with very little effort. All you need is hot water.

This information comes, surprisingly, from research sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, though the methods aren’t yet officially recommended. The studies have been published in the Journal of Food Science and in Food Control.

At the U.S.D.A. labs in Beltsville, Md., Janet S. Eastridge and Brian C. Bowker test-thawed more than 200 one-inch-thick beef strip loin steaks in three different groups: some in a refrigerator at 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, some in a constantly circulating water bath at 68 degrees, and some in a water bath at 102 degrees.

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.
You should click through for more at the link, but an important note is that this applies to relatively thin cuts of meat like steaks and fillets... they don't really know whether something like a roast will grow too much bacteria during the longer thawing time to be safe.

I have a feeling that the "hot water thaw" has been in widespread use despite past USDA concerns... because how else are you going to get dinner on the table if you forgot to thaw the chicken? Well I guess if you were worried that you might poison somebody this way you can now sleep easier.