Thawing and Preparing Foods for Serving
Food must be kept at a safe temperature during defrosting. Foods are safe indefinitely while frozen, however, as soon as food begins to defrost and become warmer than 40°F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Never thaw food at room temperature or in warm water. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter or in the warm water, the outer layer is in the “danger zone,” between 40 and 140°F. At these temperatures, bacteria multiplies rapidly.
Thawing in the refrigerator takes the longest time and advance planning. A large frozen turkey requires at least 24 hours for every 5 lbs. of weight. Even small amounts of frozen items, such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts, require a full day to thaw. When thawing in the refrigerator, there are several variables to consider:
- Some areas of an appliance may keep the food cooler than other areas. Foods placed in the coldest part will require longer defrosting time.
- Food takes longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35°F than one set at 40°F.
Thawing in cold water requires less time but more attention than thawing in the refrigerator. This should only be used if the water is kept cold (less than 70°F) and the food will thaw in less than 2 hours. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Meat tissue can also absorb water like a sponge resulting in a watery project. As an alternative to constant running water, the frozen food could be submerged in cold tap water, that is changed every 30 minutes as the food continues to thaw.
Thawing in the microwave oven can result in uneven heating. Some parts of the food may start to cook before other sections completely thaw. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed and may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow. Use the microwave when the food will be cooked immediately after thawing.
When serving frozen fruits, serve them while there are still a few ice crystals in the fruit.
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