Planning ahead is the key to thawing. There are three main ways to thaw food, firstly in the refrigerator, secondly in cold water, and thirdly in the microwave. It’s vital that you thaw food properly as many food borne diseases are associated with improperly thawed foods.

Refrigerator thawing
The refrigerator allows slow and safe thawing. This is the easiest method for defrosting frozen food, simply stick it in the fridge and wait until it’s thawed. However remember that some areas of the appliance may keep food colder than other areas (the back of the fridge where it is the coldest). The only disadvantage is that you may have to wait some time for it to completely thaw, for instance it can take an entire day to thaw even a small amount of frozen food.

The food should be placed in a drip-proof container and kept at the bottom of the refrigerator, this stops juices from falling onto other foodstuff and prevents cross contamination. Refrigerator thawing is ideal for meats, dairy products, breads and baked goods, pastas, rice, beans and fruit in the fridge.


  • Thaw under refrigeration (41F and below).

Cold water thawing
This method is faster than refrigerator thawing, and is carried out by placing the food in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. This bag is then submerged in cold tap water. To ensure that the temperature of the water doesn’t get too warm (leading to bacteria growth), the water should be changed every 30 minutes during the entire thawing process. This method is much faster than refrigerator thawing, and is suitable for small portions of meat and poultry. However due to the need to change the water it requires alot more attention that refrigerator thawing.

Do not;

  • Use hot water to thaw, as that can cause the outer layer of the food to heat up to a temperature where harmful bacteria can begin to grow.
  • Thaw baked goods in cold water.


  • Once the food is thawed completely, it should be cooked immediately.
  • The food wrapping must be maintained during the thawing process, otherwise there is a risk that the foods colour and flavour could diminish.
  • Apart from meat, fruit and vegetables can also be thawed this way.

Microwave thawing
Only thaw food in a microwave if you plan to cook it immediately after wards. This is because during microwaving some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook, this can lead to bacteria can grow in the outer layers of the food before the inside fully thaws. The microwave is the quickest method of defrosting food. One disadvantage is that it could create ‘hot spots’ where some of the food has been heated unevenly, another is that it can dry out foods.


  • Turn the food regularly so that it heats evenly.

Cooking food after thawing
As a rule it is advisable to cook food immediately after it has been thawed.

General thawing tips

  • Generally speaking when taking food out of the fridge to thaw, its best to leave the food in the same package it was in the freezer.
  • Thaw in hot water.
  • Leave on a counter to thaw.
  • Allow food to thaw at room temperature.

Thawing perishable foods
These should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water. This is because even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the ‘Danger Zone’ where bacteria can multiply rapidly.


Related courses
Food hygiene course online