When I say “Defrosting Dinner,” I do not mean a microwave dinner tray. I am a food blogger, after all. I’m talking about what you do after you get that moment of inspiration while at work/school to make some incredible concoction… but you need those chicken breasts that are sitting frozen to the core in your freezer.

You have a few options here:

  1. Call your roommate/partner/mom/brother/friendly neighbor and beg them to get those suckers out of the freezer as soon as possible, hoping that a few hours in the fridge will do the trick (unfortunately, it won’t)
  2. Call your roommate/partner/mom/brother/friendly neighbor and beg them to put the chicken out on the counter, ignoring safety warnings given by the FDA (I will admit that I’ve been guilty of this)
  3. Pick up some already thawed chicken from the store (not an option, if you’re on my budget or that of a student)
  4. Decide that all of this brain storming, inspiration, and then panicking about your unthawed meat has worn you out and you’ll have a grilled cheese instead
None of these are good options. And although I try to be a planner, I definitely do not have all of my meals figured out far enough in advance to pull things out of the freezer. But I recently learned that there may be a fifth, safe option for quickly thawing out your meat.
Although it’s a practice long-frowned upon, a study published in the Journal of Food Science  has concluded that, at least when it comes to smaller cuts of meat (this study looked at beef steaks), it is safe to speed up the thawing process by submerging them in hot water. In the past, experts have warned us that using water submerging techniques could create a potentially-hazardous, bacteria friendly environment in food. According to this study, the trick to preventing this when using the water method is to be sure the water is very hot (100+ degrees F).
In his article, “A Hot-Water Bath for Thawing Meats,” Harold McGee breaks down the findings of the study. He shows that defrosting meat in very hot water works so quickly that bacteria doesn’t have a chance to develop. In fact, most meat can be thawed in twenty minutes or less safely using this method, without compromising any quality. Much better than waiting for hours for meat to thaw in the fridge.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been using this method to thaw meat long before this study determined it was safe. Lots of people are aware that frozen food thaws much more quickly when submerged in water than in the refrigerator, and unlike the other go-to quick thaw method- the microwave- you don’t accidentally cook the meat. Still, it’s nice when science confirms our strategy is safe!
While we’re on the subject, check out these USDA-approved meat-thawing methods. Note that this article was published before our time-saving study was, and the article doesn’t mention the submerging-in-water method.
How do you defrost meat when you’re in a pinch?
Are you a planner and thawing generally isn’t an issue? Do you have your own secret method? Or does the hot water method give you the heebie jeebies?

Disclaimer: Bear in mind, neither the FDA nor the USDA currently include use of hot water among their recommendations for thawing meat. I encourage you to refer to their websites for official meat-thawing guidelines:

FDA – Safe Defrosting Methods – For Consumers

USDA – Safe Eats: Meat, Poultry & Seafood