We store so many foods in our freezers nowadays that almost all of us would be familiar with the term ‘thawing’ which literally means to unfreeze or warm. In this hurry-burry world, we all prefer eating ready-to-eat foods instead of wasting our time in the kitchen.
We come back from work and when we reach out to prepare something for dinner, we realize that we forgot to thaw something for dinner. We pull some meat or chicken from the freezer and thaw it under hot water to immediately defrost it. Some other times, we take the food out of the freezer and leave the package outside forgetting about it all through the day at office.
Both these situations are of grave concern and can result in foodborne illness. Raw meat, cooked meat, poultry and egg products must be maintained at a safe internal temperature when they are thawed. Thawing should be practiced safely because when foods are left at temperatures between 40°F - 140 °F for more than two hours, it causes the bacteria to multiply. A food thermometer can be used to measure internal temperature of raw meat and poultry to check whether the food is cooked adequately. Ways to use a food thermometer is listed in the website www.firsteatright.com.
Thawing can be done in three ways efficiently:
Refrigerator: Planning well ahead of time is the key to this method. You can use a plate to catch the juices that might leak during the process and place the plate in the bottom of the refrigerator. We can freeze the thawed food in the refrigerator before or after cooking. Any meat or poultry can be thawed using this method as this is the safest one available for such foods.
Cold Water: Though faster than the previous method, more caution is needed while performing this method. Firstly, food must be placed inside a leak-proof package or plastic bag to prevent bacteria from the surrounding area to enter the food. Sometimes, meat tissue might absorb water resulting in a watery product.
Then, the food must be submerged in cold water and this water must be changed every 30 minutes. Ensure that the entire food content is cooked immediately after thawing. The fastest way to thaw, it takes a couple of hours depending on the weight of the food to be thawed.
Microwave: Take the food to be thawed, remove any store wrapping and follow microwaving instructions to thaw foods. Immediately cook the thawed food and refreeze them only after they are completely cooked.
Cook without Thawing
If you decide in the last minute and don’t have ample time to thaw or if you are in a hurry, the safest way to cook foods is in the frozen state itself. One disadvantage in cooking foods without thawing is that, it takes 50% more time to cook such foods. Cooking without thawing is completely applicable for frozen vegetables which can be cooked in ½ cup of water, drained and seasoned with our favorite seasonings.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.