Safe Methods of Defrosting Frozen Foods
9 June 2023
To ensure food which has been frozen before use is safe to eat, safe methods of defrosting frozen foods have to be considered. There are some foods that are safe to cook straight from frozen. These are generally pre-prepared foods and manufacturer’s instructions will be on the packaging. All other foods will need to be defrosted thoroughly before cooking.
Problems with Defrosting Frozen Foods
Defrosting food can produce a number of problems. The most common is cross-contamination if defrosting was not done correctly. The other common problem is under cooking. Frozen food is frozen in its core and it might take longer before it is safely cooked. This can be forgotten during the meal preparation and the food can stay undercooked.
The liquid from the food, a result of defrosting, that comes off raw meat can contain high levels of harmful bacteria. This can contaminate ready to eat foods if not treated carefully. The liquid has to be discarded carefully. All surfaces with which it came into contact must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. Protection of food whilst defrosting is very important. The food must be protected from physical and chemical contamination.
Tips for Defrosting Food Safely
To ensure safe food, defrosting must be carried out in appropriate conditions. The food can be defrosted in:
- Defrosting Unit.
- A Microwave Oven with Defrosting Cycle.
- A Refrigerator.
- Under Cold Running Water.
The food can be defrosted in the fridge. A space should be made on the bottom shelf for frozen food. The frozen food should also be ideally sealed so that there is no chance of accidental contamination of other foods during handling. The fridge defrosting method will ensure that the food stays at a safe temperature as the food thaws.
The food can be defrosted under cold running water. As the outside of the food will defrost faster than the centre, this will help to keep it cool. If food is defrosted using cold running water, it must be placed in a container that does not retain water. For example, the colander can be used as a container.
Food can also be defrosted in the microwave. The care, however, must be taken to avoid cooking the surface while defrosting the centre.
Some ready-to-eat foods, such as cakes, may be safely defrosted at room temperature, following either the manufacturer’s instructions or the guidelines in the Food Safety Management System.
Why is Applying Safe Methods of Defrosting Frozen Foods Important
When the food is defrosted, it should be cooked as soon as possible after it has been defrosted. It is very important, however, to check that the food is completely defrosted before cooking. The food should be checked by sight. It should also be checked with fingers or a skewer. If any ice crystals remain inside the food, for example in the body cavity of the chicken, then the food needs to be allowed to thaw for longer. If the cooking process begins before the centre of e.g., a joint of meat has fully thawed, then while the outside will cook perfectly, the centre may not reach a temperature high enough to kill bacteria.
Key Points to Remember
When defrosting food, it is useful to remember these key points:
- Keep food that is defrosting separate from other food and equipment to avoid cross-contamination.
- Defrost small pieces of raw food in a container at the bottom of the refrigerator.
- make sure food is defrosted all the way through and there are no ice crystals in the food.
- Defrosting can be done using clean, cold water. If food is defrosted using cold running water, it must be placed in a container that does not retain water. Avoid splashing the contaminated water onto other food surfaces.
- If using a microwave, make sure the food is defrosted all the way through.
- Never refreeze a food product unless you have cooked it first.
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