Are you inviting bacteria to dinner?

The improper thawing of frozen foods can lead to unwanted bacteria in food.

You have just arrived home after being gone all day and begin to think about preparing dinner. Unless you planned ahead and have meat thawing in the refrigerator, you might find yourself wondering how to get the frozen chicken on the table for your hungry family, quickly. A key area to master to ensure the safety of the food you serve in your home is to use proper thawing methods. If you are thawing foods on the countertop, in the kitchen sink or anywhere out of refrigeration, you could be inviting unwanted bacteria to dinner.

Bacteria grow very rapidly in the temperature danger zone, doubling every 20 minutes. The temperature danger zone is the temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen food left sitting in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours to thaw is not at a safe temperature. Though the center of the food might still be frozen, all the outer surfaces exposed to the unsafe temperatures can harbor bacteria that are multiplying rapidly. These are the type of bacteria that can lead to a foodborne illness.

In order to thaw foods safely and keep your frozen foods out of the danger zone to prevent bacterial growth, Michigan State University Extension recommends using the following safe thawing methods:

  • Thaw in the refrigerator, with the refrigerator temperature below 40 degrees. Thawing in the refrigerator involves planning for meals since it takes some extra time.
  • Thaw in cold water, keeping the water temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Thaw in the microwave on the defrost setting. Thawing in the microwave can result in unintentional cooking on the outer edges of the food, so it is recommended to completely cook the food item immediately after thawing.
  • Thaw as part of the cooking process. This will require a longer cooking time, to cook an item that is not completely thawed.

Using these safe thawing methods might take some additional planning but will allow you to serve safe meals to yourself and your family.

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