Getting back to the temperature danger zone, it is imperative that foods either stay hot or cold. So how do you thaw foods to ensure that they thaw properly without entering the temperature danger zone for too long.
There are only four (4) methods for thawing foods properly. They are: in a fridge for 24 hours or more, under cool running water, in a microwave (if to be used immediately after thawing), or as part of the actual cooking process. Lets break each of these down properly.
1. In a fridge: The optimal way to defrost frozen foods in in a refrigerator , which maintains the temperature of the product outside the temperature danger zone. Planning should be made to insure that you have plenty of time to defrost the item before using. The biggest drawback is ensuring that you have enough fridge space to do this properly.
2. Under cool running water: if you happened to forget to pull the frozen item out of the freezer and get it thawing, you can always place the item under cool running water. Some have adapted this to think that they can just set the item in cool standing water for a few hours to allow it to thaw. The issue comes when the frozen item starts to freeze the water, so the running water keeps it from forming an ice block around the item being thawed, and allows for any ice crystals that do form to be removed by the moving of the water. The water should be cool, as hot water would cause parts of the item to get into the temperature danger zone and stay there longer than acceptable.
3. In a Microwave (if to be used immediately after thawing): Microwaves have been a great item for thawing and cooking foods. Unfortunately, the fact that they are not very good at cooking or thawing evenly throughout the food item, is the main reason that the food must be used immediately after thawing. Parts of the food item may have entered the temperature danger zone during the defrosting process, so the best thing to do is finish the cooking process immediately upon thawing.
4. As part of the actual cooking process: Many people have used this method without realizing it is actually an excellent method for keeping food out of the temperature danger zone. In this method, the food item goes directly from the freezer to the cooking process and is cooked in a minimal amount of time. Some examples of this are: frozen hamburgers that are placed in a skillet, frozen shrimp (or meatballs) thrown into a sauce for pasta.
By using these methods, you will help ensure that you are maintaining safe food for those you feed.