How To Thaw Frozen Food Safely

Learning how to thaw frozen food safely is vital to freezer cooking and your families health.

Improper thawing methods can allow bacteria to grow on your food and make people sick.

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What needs to be thawed?
Not everything needs to be thawed although most foods cook or reheat better after being thawed.

  • Thawing stuffed poultry is not recommended and it should be cooked from frozen.
  • Precooked meals that are going to be reheated for that day do not need to be thawed, but may cook more evenly after they have been thawed.
  • Some cuts of meat do not need to be thawed if the are being cooked fast at a high heat, almost everything going in the crock pot should be thawed however.
  • Frozen veggies do not need to be thawed and should be cooked frozen.
  • Frozen fruit can be added to other dishes where it will be cooked.

Allow 50% more time to cook a meal from frozen.

So a casserole that usually takes an hour to cook will take about an hour and a half from frozen.

Exact times will vary based on the size of the meal and your individual oven.

How To Thaw Frozen Food

There are 4 basic methods of thawing food and not all of them as safe for all foods.

These four methods include the fridge, cold water, the microwave and the counter.


The fridge is the safest way to thaw food, when in doubt thaw it in the fridge.

However, the fridge is also the slowest way to thaw food.

This method is ideal for meats, dairy and anything else usually stored cold.

You can also thaw breads and baked goods, pastas, rice, beans and fruit in the fridge.

Whole meals with any of these items also do well in the fridge.

Allow adequate time for thawing and try not to push the food to the back of the fridge where it is the coldest.

Thawing food in the fridge is easy.

Just leave the food in the freezer container until it is fully thawed. Planning ahead is essential for this method.

Cold Water

Cold water is as safe as thawing in the fridge when done right and most foods can be thawed this way.

It is also faster than using the fridge.

This method is great for meat, fruit, cooked meals, sauces, vegetables and dairy.

Do not thaw baked goods in cold water.

Make sure the food is in a water proof package and submerge it in cold water.

You can use a bucket if you'll need your sink.

Every 30 minutes the water must be drained and fresh cold water added to make sure the temperature doesn't get too warm and bacteria doesn't start to grow.


The microwave is the fastest way to thaw food but gives the most uneven results.

Food can start cooking on the outside while the inside is still frozen and the microwave usually dries out foods.

Use this method only when necessary.

Any food thawed in the microwave needs to be cooked immediately and cooked foods reheated in the microwave should be eaten soon.

How To Thaw Food Tips

  • Leave the food in the same package in was in in the freezer.
  • Use a platter if necessary to catch as juice that might drip from meats, fruit or liquids.
  • If you doubt your food is safe throw it out, it's not worth getting sick

This article is one of a four part series on the basics of freezers cooking. The four articles include what foods can freeze, how to prevent freezer burn, how to thaw frozen food and keeping a freezer inventory.

More detailed thawing instructions on individual foods

Learn more about freezer cooking.

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