How to Leave Meat out to Defrost

Close-up of frozen cubes of beef.
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Improperly defrosted meat can result in food poisoning. The USDA suggests not leaving any meat out in the open for more than two hours, or one hour in climates above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Any meat left too long in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit may rapidly develop bacteria. As such, leaving meat out uncovered and away from the refrigerator is a dangerous way to defrost your meat. Instead, leave frozen meat in the refrigerator, use the microwave or run it under cold water. Refrigerator thawing is the safest way to thaw meat.


Step 1

Remove the meat from the freezer and leave it inside its packaging.

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Step 2

Place the meat in the refrigerator if you're not planning to eat it for at least 12 hours. Place it directly on the wire rack, with a tray positioned beneath to catch the thawing ice.

Step 3

Leave small pieces of meat, such as steaks and chops, in the refrigerator overnight or for 12 hours. Larger items, such as a chuck roast, need a full day or more to thoroughly defrost, according to the USDA.

Step 4

Keep very large pieces of meat, such as roasts and turkeys, in the refrigerator for a full day for each 5 lbs. of weight.

Step 5

Put your meat in a sealed bag and submerge in a sink filled with cold water if you're keen to eat the meat in only a few hours.

Step 6

Change the water every 30 minutes to keep the temperature cool, below 70 degrees Fahrenheit in ideal circumstances. Remove when the meat is soft and flexible. Defrost times depend on the size of the meat.


Step 7

Use a microwave for small pieces of meat that you want to eat very soon. Most microwaves have a "defrost" setting -- which is usually around 30 percent of maximum capacity.

Step 8

Place the meat on a microwave-proof dish. Separate any steaks or meat chunks. Set the microwave to defrost. After 5 minutes, turn the food 180 degrees to ensure even thawing. Keep defrosting until the meat is fully thawed.

Things You'll Need

  • Tray

  • Sealed plastic bag

  • Microwave


For faster cold water thawing, leave a tap or shower head running over the meat.


Don't use warm water to speed up your thawing. This can cause bacterial growth on the meat surface.

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