How to Defrost Meat Safely and Correctly


You are all set to welcome your guests for a smoking barbeque party in your backyard. The food smoker has been cleaned and is ready to fire up, but you suddenly realize you forgot to thaw the meat. The steak sits like a brick in the freezer, and the ground beef for the burgers has hardened like a shot-put ball. Many of you can relate to this situation. It is normal for us humans to forget, but there are rescues too. This is where this ultimate guide to thawing meat will help you save the day. It can be any day, be it a weeknight dinner or taco Tuesday. Follow this guide to win the defrosting-meat game.

Benefits of thawing meat

Earlier, humans smoked food to preserve it, especially meat, and extend its shelf life. Now refrigerators have replaced this. Smoking nowadays is just a method of cooking gourmet food at home. While we love to stock up on red meat, fish, and poultry in our freezers to meal-prep our dinners for the week, we often lag in thawing them. For most of us, it is just a process of defrosting the food to make it easier to cook. Well, that’s true, but there are other advantages too. Thawing helps to preserve the protein content in meat, fish, and poultry. It enhances the flavor of the food and makes it more tender and succulent. It also hastens the cooking process.

What to avoid while thawing

Many people might suggest you just leave the meat on the kitchen counter for a few hours until it is thawed and turns soft. This may not be the fastest process to thaw the meat, but it might sound convenient. However, it is something that you should completely avoid. According to the USDA, thawing meat by leaving it at room temperature for hours can contaminate the food. You should never leave raw meat on the kitchen counter for more than a couple of hours.

Easy ways to thaw meat

We understand time is an important factor for this guide. That’s why we have kept it simple and fast. Here, we will be sharing 4 easy-peasy thawing methods to help you prepare your meal or fire up the food smoker real quick. Check them out below:

The refrigerator method

This is perhaps the most common method to thaw meat, fish, or poultry. You take out the frozen food and keep it in the refrigerator for a few hours to turn tender. Leaner meats like chicken and fish can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The refrigeration period can extend up to 3 to 5 days for red meats like brisket, pork, or lamb. You can also re-freeze the meat if you have thawed it in the refrigerator.

The cold water method

If you have a couple of hours to spare before preparing that family favorite, then you can try this process. Take the frozen meat and leave it inside a container filled with cold water. Keep changing the cold water every 30 minutes until the frozen meat is thawed. For leaner meat, it will take 1 or 2 hours, but the time might extend up to 3 to 4 hours for fatty meats.

The microwave method

Modern microwave ovens come with a separate temperature setting for thawing or defrosting food. You can go through the user manual to find the setting and thaw the meat accordingly. However, if your microwave doesn’t have an inbuilt thawing or defrosting option, here’s what you can do. Set the temperature to its minimum and heat the meat in short bursts. It is by far the easiest and fastest process on the list. This whole method should take less than 10 minutes for the frozen meat to thaw. 

An added advantage is that the protein content doesn’t dissipate during microwave thawing. However, you have to be extra careful about the timing and temperature to avoid the meat being cooked inside.

Direct cooking method

This might sound weird, but yes, you can cook meat without thawing it. This method is for those days when you have to get breakfast on the table really quick or start firing up the stove or grill within minutes to keep your schedule. The rock-hard meat will take some time to be cooked properly, but that’s a compromise to maintain the tight schedule. Remember not to pop the frozen meat inside a slow cooker. This might take forever to prepare the meal.

With that, we’ve come to the end of this guide on thawing meat. We hope these simple Bradley tips & tricks help you speed up the process of thawing meat safely and helped you master the technique. 

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.