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Proper thawing is absolutely essential to maintaining the taste, texture, and safety of frozen foods. It affects the texture and flavor of vegetables and fruits, and if defrosted properly, will enhance the juiciness of meats. The safest way to defrost or thaw any food is in the refrigerator in a clean and separate sealed freezer container. A separate container for each type of food being thawed is essential so that other refrigerated foods will not be contaminated with raw food juices.

THAWING MEAT, POULTRY, AND SEAFOOD

Never leave thawed meat or poultry at room temperature or warmer for even a short period of time. Harmful bacteria will quickly multiply at temperatures ranging from as low as 40 degrees Farenheit to 140 degrees Farenheit! Allow 8 to 9 hours per pound for meat and 3 to 4 hours per pound for poultry.

APPROXIMATE THAWING TIME FOR A WHOLE CHICKEN OR TURKEY

Weight Refrigerator Cold Water
8 to 11 lbs 1 to 2 days 4-6 hrs
12 to 15 lbs 2 to 3 days 6-10 hrs
15 to 20 pounds 3 to 4 days 10-12 hrs
20+ pounds 5 days 13 + hrs

Thawed or defrosted food is more perishable than fresh food. Thawed meat or poultry that has been defrosted using the refrigerator method should be used within two days. Thawed seafood kept in the refrigerator should be used within one day of defrosting. DO NOT REFREEZE THAWED MEAT, POULTRY, OR SEAFOOD!

To thaw poultry, meat, or seafood more quickly, submerse (in a sealed container) into cold water, changing the water often. The cold water method takes about one-eighth the refrigerator time (see estimated time chart above).

VEGETABLES AND FRUIT

Most vegetables are best when cooked frozen although cauliflower and broccoli tend to stay crisper and more flavorful if they are slightly defrosted before cooking. Any frozen fruit or vegetable that has been at room temperature for more than an hour should be thrown away, as harmful bacteria may be present and the consistency and texture of the food could be compromised.

Thaw frozen fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator in a separate container. A one-pound bag of frozen strawberries, for example, takes at least 6 hours to defrost. For a quick method, place the frozen fruit or vegetables into a sealed container and immerse completely in cold water until food is thawed. Change the water frequently to ensure food is thawing at a safe temperature, also allowing it to thaw evenly.

OTHER FOODS

Casseroles, frozen cold cuts, pasta dishes, and soups should always be thawed in the fridge or in the microwave. Remember, some pre-packaged foods, such as TV dinners, are intended to be cooked from frozen. Always follow the manufacturer's directions.

Baked goods, such as breads and muffins, can be thawed safely at room temperature in their original wrappings or in a sealed container. Uncooked cookie or bread dough should be defrosted in the refrigerator because of the raw ingredients they contain, such as eggs.

ALWAYS REMEMBER TO WASH WORKING SURFACES, HANDS, CUTTING BOARDS, KNIVES, AND UTENSILS THOROUGHLY BEFORE HANDLING ANY RAW MEAT, POULTRY, OR SEAFOOD.

REMEMBER, IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!