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Does Meat Need to Be Thawed Before Cooking?

by
author image M.H. Dyer
M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.
Does Meat Need to Be Thawed Before Cooking?
Thaw vacuum-sealed meat in cold water. Photo Credit Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you're in a hurry or you forgot to thaw meat ahead of time, it's safe to cook meat directly from the freezer. Allow extra time because cooking time might be up to 50 percent longer or about 10 to 20 more minutes for each 1 lb. of meat.

Exceptions

Thaw meat before cooking if you want to bread it or if you want to brown the meat in a frying pan. Thaw ground meat if you want to shape it into patties or make meatloaves. While you can safely cook large frozen roasts or whole turkeys, it's best to thaw them first because the outside of the meat might dry out and become overcooked before the inside cooks completely. You can cook a whole, frozen turkey but you won't be able to remove the giblets until the meat begins to thaw. Don't leave giblets in the bird for the entire cooking time, especially if the giblets are wrapped in plastic.

Safe Thawing

If you choose to thaw meat before cooking, the refrigerator is the best option because it holds the meat at a safe temperature. A small package of meat weighing about 1 lb. thaws in about an hour, but a large turkey or roast can take several days. Allow a full 24 hours for each 5 lbs. of meat. You can also thaw meat in cold water if the meat is in airtight packaging. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep the water from becoming too warm. Allow about two to three hours in cold water for a 3- to 4-pound piece of meat. Never allow meat to thaw at room temperature.

Meat Thermometers

Don't depend on color or appearance to determine when safe meat temperatures and don't rely on pop-up devices which may not be reliable. Instead, use an instant-read thermometer, which registers the temperature of meat in 10 to 15 seconds. Instant-read thermometers, available in both digital and dial types, are not heatproof and can't be used while the meat is cooking. If you want to keep track of the temperature of a roast or turkey while the meat is cooking, use an ovenproof meat thermometer that can safely be left in place.

Safe Temperatures

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that poultry, including whole birds, ground poultry or poultry pieces be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook ground meat, including beef, lamb and pork, to a temperature of 160 F. Steaks, chops and roast from beef, lamb, pork and veal is safe when the temperature registers a minimum of 145 F, taken after the meat is allowed to rest for three minutes. Always insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Don't allow the thermometer to touch bone, which affects the reading.

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