How to Quickly Thaw Meat

If the only thing standing between you and a hot meal is a hunk of frozen chicken, try one of these techniques.

In a Bowl of Water

This quick-thaw method, preferred by the Real Simple test kitchen, is the gentlest technique and takes 15 to 30 minutes. Fill a large bowl with cold water (resist the temptation to use hot, or you'll encourage the growth of bacteria and "cook" the outside of the meat). Place the meat in a resealable plastic bag and the bag in the water, fully submerging it. Let sit, changing the water with fresh cold water as it warms. Once the pieces are defrosted enough to be separated, pull them apart. (The rest of the thawing will go more quickly.) Continue until the meat is fully thawed.

In the Microwave

This method is fast, averaging 5 to 10 minutes, but requires attention. Otherwise, you'll risk sliding into semi-cooked territory, and your dinner will be tough and stringy. Use your microwave's code for the type of meat you're thawing and its weight. (Consult the owner's manual to find out.) Check the progress of the food periodically and remove it as soon as it's defrosted. For best results, position thinner portions of meat in the center of the microwave, where they're less likely to overcook.

Note: To prevent the growth of bacteria, cook all meat immediately after thawing.

*Quick defrosting works best with small- to medium-size pieces of meat, such as chicken parts, steaks, and chops. Larger items should be thawed in the refrigerator over the course of a day or so.

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