Why can’t I thaw meat at room temperature?

Germs in food can make us sick! One way to avoid illness from food is by properly thawing meat from the freezer. Thawing food is the process of warming up a frozen product to become softer for cooking.

How can you go wrong with thawing? When meat is kept​ at certain temperatures, germs found in the meat can grow, reproduce and make us sick.​ When meat is kept out of these temperatures the bacteria won’t grow or reproduce. ​The temperature that many germs grow in is around room temperature.​ This is why room temperature isn’t a good choice for thawing.

There are 3 ways to safely thaw meat:

  1. Refrigerator​:

    Put the leak-proof package of meat in the refrigerator a day or two before you are ready to cook it. Larger items will take longer to thaw in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly. In the refrigerator it will stay at a safe temperature. If you decide not to use it right away, you can safely put it back in the freezer, although it may lose some quality.

  2. Cold water bath​:

    Put the leak-proof package of meat in cold water. You will need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the temperature cold. When you utilize this method you will need to cook the meat immediately.

  3. Microwave:

    Put the raw meat on a plate in the microwave and utilize the defrost setting on the microwave to thaw. When you utilize this method you will need to cook the meat immediately.

Some people may say that their families would thaw meat at room temperature and never get sick. There are reasons this may be true. First, some germs have gotten stronger over the years. They may not have made us sick years ago, but today those same germs are stronger and could make us sick. Another reason is that food-borne illnesses may not make us sick immediately. We may not feel sick right away, but could be sick days later and not realize the connection. It’s also important to think about who is eating the final product. Some people have weaker or less developed immune systems (children, elderly, those with certain illnesses) and may get sick more easily. So the product may not make us sick, but could make our friends or family sick if we aren’t careful.

Check out this ​link ​from the USDA for more information on proper freezing and food safety.

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