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How to freeze and thaw meat

21 mayo, 2021

Defrosting meat properly is just as important as knowing how to freeze it. Carrying out this process well will not only protect you from poisoning, but it will also ensure a quality and tasty food. For this reason, in RecetasGratis we find it very useful to share with you all the essential details of how to defrost meat and also some interesting tips.

In this useful guide you will have the three most recommended defrosting methods according to the experts, explained step by step and very didactically. In addition, we also tell you how to freeze meat effectively. Keep reading!

How to freeze meat

The task of freezing meat is not complicated, although you do need to consider some essential details to carry it out with good results. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Know the potential of your freezer. Home freezers are categorized by stars from 1 to 4 (-6º, -12º, -18º and -24º). Since food needs to be refrigerated at least below -18º, freezers between 1 and 3 stars serve to keep food frozen, but they do not ensure an optimal process, so take it into account.
  2. Buy fresh and good quality meat. Do not buy products that are about to expire, as you run the risk of spoiling during the process. Likewise, avoid freezing minced meat as much as possible, unless you are sure that it is very fresh; in this case you could freeze it. Finally, in the supermarket he puts the meat almost at the end of the purchase.
  3. Prefer cuts that are easier to freeze. All meats, without exception, can be frozen, although some are better than others for this process, either due to their ease of handling or their organoleptic characteristics. In this sense, keep in mind that lean pieces resist freezing better than pieces with higher fat content.
  4. Freeze the meat as soon as possible. Preferably do it immediately. Keep in mind that although the package indicates that it has several days to go to damage, during that period of time it already begins to deteriorate slowly. That is, if you wait a long time, you will significantly reduce the durability of the product.
  5. Discard the waxed paper and the tray that it brings. The trays are made of a thermal insulating material known as XPS, which slows down freezing, takes up a lot of space and is not always hermetically sealed. On the other hand, wax paper does not work well for freezing food.
  6. Eliminate visible pieces of fat. Fats tend to turn up and therefore tend to accelerate the breakdown of the rest of the meat.
  7. Store the meat in portions. If it is a large piece, cut it into portions of 200-250 grams. In this way, you will obtain several advantages: you will be able to handle the meat more easily, the pieces will take less time to freeze and it will be evenly, you will only defrost the necessary meat and the defrosting process will be easier and safer.
  8. Wrap the meat rations very well. Make it first with plastic wrap and then put them in special plastic bags or containers to freeze. If you use bags, remove all the air and seal them. Another option to freeze meat without sticking would be to have a homemade vacuum packing machine.
  9. Freeze large cuts in their original bag. We refer to products such as pork leg, roast, round, etc. In these cases, check the package and make sure it is hermetically closed, otherwise, store the product in large special freezer bags or seal them with plastic wrap.
  10. Label the containers. Give them the date of purchase, the day you frozen them (if you didn’t freeze them upon arrival) and the name of the product.
  11. Keep track. Keep a list in a notebook or any electronic device (mobile, computer or tablet). A good idea is to create a list in Excel.

Advice: wash your hands before and after handling any type of raw meat to avoid food contamination.

How to Freeze and Thaw Meat - How to Freeze Meat

How to defrost meat correctly

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends keeping thawed foods no more than 4.44º. For this reason, slow defrosting in the fridge is the best option because it does not break the cold chain, consequently, it better preserves the organoleptic characteristics of the food and its decomposition does not accelerate so much once thawed. But if you need a faster and risk-free method, immersion in cold water will do. With that said, let’s see how to safely defrost meat using these methods:

How to defrost meat gradually

Cuts under 2 kilos need about 12 hours, so you can defrost them overnight before cooking. Now, if you wonder how to defrost meat for roast, As well as other large pieces, it can take approximately 24 hours for every 2.5 kg of meat. In these cases, you should check the meat every 24 hours, since you need to make sure if it is already thawed. Without further ado, we recommend that you review the following steps:

  1. Transfer the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator. Never thaw meat with hot water or by leaving it at room temperature.
  2. Place a deep plate or roasting pan under the meat. The idea is to avoid that the liquid products of the defrosting process touch the meat. An interesting suggestion is to place a rack over a bowl or roasting pan, put the meat on top and, finally, place both on the last floor below, towards the bottom. In addition, this practice avoids contamination of other foods.
  3. Keep it before cooking. If you plan to consume it in a while or the next day, do not leave it at room temperature and keep it in the fridge. Ground meat, fish and poultry can be left for approximately 1-2 days, while beef, pork, veal or lamb will last for approximately 3-5 days.

How to defrost meat quickly with cold water

This method allows you to defrost 1 piece of meat weighing between ½ kilo and 1 kilo in approximately 15-30 minutes. If you are dealing with a 2.5 kilo piece, it will take about 1 hour. Finally, if you have cuts from 2.5 kilos you will need about 2-3 hours. That said, we indicate below the steps to follow to know how to defrost meat with water:

  1. Put the piece in a bag. If it’s already in one, leave it there. Instead, if it’s in a plastic or other container, transfer it to a zip-lock bag.
  2. Check that the bag is tightly closed. This is very important, as no water should get into it.
  3. Dip the bagged meat in cold tap water. Tap water has a temperature that ranges between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius.
  4. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. When defrosting meat with water, never allow it to reach 30-42 degrees Celsius. For this reason, if you live in a very hot place, you may need to change the water more often and add 1-2 ice cubes.
  5. Cook the meat as soon as you defrost it. Rapid thawing methods accelerate the growth of bacteria.
How to Freeze and Thaw Meat - How to Defrost Meat Properly

How to defrost meat in the microwave

You can never miss an express method in the kitchen and the most effective in this case is the microwave. Although it must be recognized that using heat to defrost meat is not the most advisable, the only safe way to do it is by using this appliance. Thawing with hot water and leaving the meat at room temperature are completely ruled out. That said, here is the step-by-step guide on how to defrost meat quickly in the microwave:

  1. Unpack the meat and place it on a plate or container suitable for microwave. If you want to defrost vacuum packed meat, you will have to break the vacuum and remove it from the bag.
  2. Program the option to defrost or defrost. Some microwaves will ask you for the weight of the meat, in this way, it will calculate the time needed for this function. If not, the next step will guide you.
  3. Set the time according to the type of meat and weight. Bone-in chicken (per 700g), ground beef (per 700g), beef steaks (per 450g), and bone-in pork (per 450g) need to start at 50% power for 2 minutes. After this time, reduce the power to 30% for 1 minute. If it’s boneless chicken breasts (for every 700 g), everything remains the same, except that the final potency is reduced to 20%. On the other hand, for boneless pork chops or steaks (for every 250 g), everything is repeated again changing the power to 40% during the beginning and 30% at the end. These time and power references are indicative, as they may change depending on your microwave.
  4. Defrosts at intervals of time. Keep in mind that microwaves are different from each other when it comes to power. For this reason, the total defrosting time may vary. Work at 1-2 minute intervals at the beginning and after 30 seconds. If your microwave is not very powerful, you can increase the time to 3 minutes at first.
  5. Monitor the state of the meat at each pause and turn it over. Check its texture pricking it with a fork in several places, if it feels soft in general, it is done. Now, if you have several pieces at the same time, remove the thawed ones. If you have any doubts about how to defrost minced meat in this way, simply remove the ready parts and continue the process with the rest to avoid cooking.
  6. Cook it immediately and using high temperatures. This will prevent the accelerated proliferation of bacteria caused by heat defrosting.
  7. Clean the microwave. In this way, you prevent food contamination after defrosting meat quickly.

Once the meat is defrosted, you can consult the following recipes:

Advice: Before using the defrost function, review the user manual.

How to Freeze and Thaw Meat - How to Defrost Meat in the Microwave

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  • Anonymous. (2021). Storing meat in the freezer. April 20, 2021, University of Illinois Extension Website: