Consumer Reports: How to thaw frozen food safely

Having frozen food on hand is really convenient, if you plan ahead! Hungry kids and a frozen porkchop are not a good match! And thawing frozen food the right way can keep you from getting sick, and it's actually easier than you might think.

Like many of us, Josenny Teneo saves money and time, by using her freezer.

"My strategy is to buy in bulk and key number one to separate into small portions," Teneo said. "It lasts me a longer time when I buy in bulk and put it in the freezer!"

But even with her freezer fully stocked, getting dinner on the table takes a little planning. You should never leave food out on the counter to thaw or run it under how water.

"These methods can allow parts of the food to reach temperatures above 40 degrees, which enables any bacteria there to multiply quickly and may lead to foodborne illness," said Sana Mujahid, Ph.D. Consumer Reports, Food Safety Research & Testing.

The safest way to thaw is always in the refrigerator, because foods maintain a safe temperature -- below 40 degrees. But that means planning ahead. The larger the item, the more time to thaw. A pound of frozen ground beef or boneless chicken takes a full day to thaw.

After thawing, poultry and seafood remain safe in the fridge for a day or two -- And red meats are safe for three to five days after thawing, so you've got some time before you have to cook.

Need dinner on the table faster? Cold water thawing can speed things up.

"You should place frozen food like raw meat in a leak-proof plastic bag, such as this," Mujahid said. "Here I'm using two. We're going to place this bag in a bowl of cold tap water."

For larger cuts of meat, you'll want to change the water every 30 minutes. It should take about an hour to thaw a pound of meat. Once fully thawed, cook immediately.

Need defrosted food even faster? There is a "thaw" setting on your microwave. But Consumer Reports says portions of the food may begin to cook during the thawing cycle, encouraging bacterial growth, so foods thawed in a microwave should be cooked immediately.

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