ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Thaw Food Safely So No One Gets Violently Ill

Updated on October 5, 2017
Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

Kierstin makes it her life's priority to practice safe food handling so she doesn't end up poisoning her entire family.

Source

Growing up, I remember my parents and friends parents running packages of chicken under hot water, floating frozen pot roast in the sink, and throwing dishes of frozen food in the microwave to thaw. It wasn't until I began cooking for my own children that I wondered what the proper way to thaw frozen meats, veggies, and other food products really was.

After much research I found that some of these old practices are quite safe while others are a total night of vomiting waiting to happen. Yikes! Read on for more about how to safely thaw food, as well as classic tactics to avoid.

How Should Frozen Food Be Thawed?

Frozen food should be thawed in the microwave, in cold water, or in the refrigerator.

Always thaw food in it's original packaging, if possible, to keep leaking juices and condensation to a minimum.


Refrigerator Thawing

Refrigerator thawing is by far the safest, but also lengthiest way to thaw frozen food.

Place each frozen item in it's own shallow container (like a Pyrex dish!), uncovered, and place it in the refrigerator. This way, any condensation or juices that roll off the food will collect in the dish instead of pooling potentially dangerous bacteria around your fridge, cross contaminating the surrounding items.

If you're defrosting your Thanksgiving turkey, throw it in on Tuesday to have it thawed and ready for the oven by Thursday. Once thawed, most foods can remain safely in the fridge for up to two days.

Separate raw foods like uncooked poultry from other ingredients like fresh veggies to keep your food safe from cross-contamination of bacteria.
Separate raw foods like uncooked poultry from other ingredients like fresh veggies to keep your food safe from cross-contamination of bacteria. | Source

Microwave Thawing

This is pretty easy. Simply place the frozen item on a microwave safe plate if necessary, and hit "defrost." On most new microwaves you can defrost by weight or time.

Cook the food immediately after thawing.

Cold Water Thawing

To thaw frozen food in cold water, run the package under cold water until it's softened. For bigger items, submerge the package in a sink full of cold water, making sure to change the water out every thirty minutes, ensuring that the water temperature remains safe.

Don't Thaw Food in Hot Water

Do not thaw food on the counter top or in hot water! Thawing food this way is dangerous because it heats up the outer part of the food to a temperature conducive to the growth of bacteria, while the inner part remains frozen--rendering it unsafe to consume.

How Long Can Food Stay Out For?

When you're done serving a meal, wrap up leftovers and promptly refrigerate them rather than allowing them to sit out.
When you're done serving a meal, wrap up leftovers and promptly refrigerate them rather than allowing them to sit out. | Source

The general rule of thumb is that food can stay out, unrefrigerated for up to two hours. That being said, for especially perishable foods like meats and seafood, it's best to immediately refrigerate these items as soon as a meal is over to prevent food from entering the Danger Zone - the temperature range at which food items become susceptible to bacteria that can make people sick if consumed.

Handy Kitchen Cleaning Tips

  • Keep a thing of disinfectant wipes out where you can see them, like on top of the refrigerator or next to the toaster, that way you'll easily remember to wipe off counter tops and handles in the evening for a fresh, clean start to the morning. Don't use your kitchen sponge--think about it, it's full of all the yummies from last night's enchiladas.
  • Purchase a mop with disposable mopping pads for quick cleanups after spills.
  • Make a habit of choosing one day of the week to clean up the fridge. Throw out old food and wipe down drawers and shelves while you're at it.
  • While you're cleaning the fridge out, throw a bowl of two parts water, one part white vinegar in the microwave and set for eight minutes. Carefully remove the bowl (it will be boiling hot, literally!) and wipe out the microwave with a clean sponge. The white vinegar will also work to deodorize!
  • If you have a dishwasher, throw your kitchen sponge in with each load for a quick disinfecting.

How Long Should Meat Cook For?

The amount of time meat should cook for varies by what you're cooking and how large a portion. Use these handy guides next time you're wondering how long to throw that pork loin in for.


Remember that it's always best to err on the side of well-done rather than medium-well or under-done, especially when it comes to feeding children or those susceptible to foodborne illnesses like pregnant women and the elderly.

Do You Have To Cook Meat Before Putting it In The Crockpot?

Nope! As long as you cook the meat -- and whatever other ingredients you've added-- thuroughly in the crockpot before serving, the food will be fine.

What is Cross Contamination?

Always thoroughly clean up your food prep areas after cooking or baking to ensure a safe kitchen environment.
Always thoroughly clean up your food prep areas after cooking or baking to ensure a safe kitchen environment. | Source

Cross Contamination occurs when bacteria is spread from one food to another. An example of this is if you were to chop lettuce for a salad with the same knife used to slice raw chicken before throwing it in the pan to cook. Dangerous bacteria from the chicken has now been transferred to the uncooked lettuce via the knife, inevitably resulting in harmful effects.

This is why it is necessary to use different utensils when preparing a meal that will include both raw and cooked ingredients.

What Temperature Should the Freezer Be?

Freezers should be set at 0 degrees fahrenheit.

About Food-borne Illnesses

Preventing food-borne illnesses like botulism by keeping your food prep area clean and following safe-handling guidelines as you make and serve meals.
Preventing food-borne illnesses like botulism by keeping your food prep area clean and following safe-handling guidelines as you make and serve meals. | Source

The CDC estimates that nearly three-thousand people die of foodborne illnesses every year in the United States. That doesn't include the thousands that are hospitalized and treated for food poisoning each year. Foodborne illnesses are caused by harmful bacteria ingested through the unsafe handling of food. Some of these illnesses include botulism, salmonella, and E.coli.

Improper food handling can also spread parasitic and viral illnesses like Heptatis A and Toxoplasmosis.

Washing one's hands before preparing food and after handling raw meats and eggs is pertinent to preventing foodborne illnesses, as is thoroughly washing and drying fresh fruits and vegetables before serving and properly cleaning up preparation areas after cooking a meal.

How Often Do You Clean Out Your Fridge?

Be Honest!

See results

The refrigerator temperature should be set no higher than 40 degrees fahrenheit.

The refrigerator temperature should be set no higher than 40 degrees fahrenheit.

Make it a habit to sniff, inspect, and clean out your food items each week so you never have to wonder how long that jar of mayo has been sitting in the back of the fridge.
Make it a habit to sniff, inspect, and clean out your food items each week so you never have to wonder how long that jar of mayo has been sitting in the back of the fridge. | Source

How Should Food be Stored?

Food should be stored neatly in the refrigerator, not all haphazard in little tetris-like towers. This way, each item is remaining cool and safe.

Label storage containers so you and your family can easily identify food that's been hanging out too long. It's a good idea too, to label when you've opened certain foods that begin to perish as soon as their seal has been broken--like sour cream and cottage cheese.

Place milk, meat, and yogurt at the back of the refrigerator where it's coldest, and save the door of the fridge for less temp sensitive foods like mustard, pickles, and butter.

Certain foods like potatoes, onions, and tomatoes should not be refrigerated, but should be stored separately in a cool, dry place.

© 2014 Kierstin Gunsberg

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      My pleasure. For sure. We all need life hacks everywhere.

    • Kierstin Gunsberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Kierstin Gunsberg 

      2 years ago from Traverse City, Michigan

      Thanks Kristen! I figure since I'm always looking online for this kind of info, someone else is too!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great tips on how to thaw food and keep them cold in the fridge. Very useful and handy for everyone to know about food safety. Nice work!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 years ago from Central Florida

      Kierstin, my son and I both came down with Hepatitis A in 1996. He was an extremely picky eater when he was little. I'm not sure from where we contracted it. It was either the deli cheese from the grocery store or chicken McNuggets from Mickey D's. I'm suspecting the former since the cooking process usually kills any contaminates.

      It was awful. I felt like I was going to die the pain was so bad!

    • Kierstin Gunsberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Kierstin Gunsberg 

      4 years ago from Traverse City, Michigan

      Oh, thank you Billy! Being a stay-at-home mom has made me that much more aware of kitchen and food safety = )

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very useful information about an important topic. Thank you

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)