DO's and Don'ts

  • Keep foods out of the "Danger Zone" (40-140°F)
  • Thaw foods:
    • In the refrigerator
    • In the cold
    • In the microwave
  • Keep perishable foods outside of refrigeration for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F)
  • Thaw foods:
    • On the countertop
    • In hot water

Thawing in the refrigerator

Frozen foods can be thawed in the refrigerator but require plenty of time to defrost. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, remember these tips:

  • Plan ahead! Frozen foods require at least one day (24 hours) to thaw for every 5 pounds of weight.
  • After thawing, ground meat, stew meat, poultry, and seafood will stay safe in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.
  • After thawing, red meat cuts stay safe in the refrigerator for 3-5 days before cooking.
  • Foods thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen without cooking. This is the only method that allows for safe refreezing without cooking.

Thawing in cold water

Food thaws faster in cold water than in the refrigerator but this method can be more tedious. Keep the following in mind to safely thaw foods in cold water:

  • Frozen food should be placed in leak-proof packaging prior to thawing.
  • After food is properly packaged, food should be submerged in cold water to thaw.
  • Cold water must be changed every 30 minutes during thawing.
  • Thawing time will vary depending on the size and weight of the food.
    • 1 pound: 1 hour or less
    • 3-4 pounds: 2-3 hours
    • Whole turkey: 30 minutes for every pound
  • If thawed completely, food must be cooked immediately.

Thawing in the microwave

Thawing food in the microwave is another quick method but may result in uneven thawing and cooking. Therefore, it is important to remember the following when microwave thawing:

  • Some parts of the food may enter the "Danger Zone" (40-140°F) during the thawing process due to uneven heating.
  • Foods thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Microwave thawing may be more suitable for smaller portions of food.

Cooking without thawing

Don't have time to thaw? Frozen food can be safely cooked without thawing but keep in mind that cooking time will be about 50% longer compared to that of fully thawed or fresh foods.

Featured recipes

Basic Meat Mix Sloppy Joes

Mix BASIC MEAT MIX and tomato sauce in medium pan. Heat thoroughly.Serve on hamburger buns.


Elk Pot Pie with Herb Biscuits

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil over medium heat in oven safesauté pan. Toss meat with flour, add to pan andcook until brown, about 10 minutes. Add broth, thyme, and rosemary and simmeruntil liquid has reduced by half. Stir in vegetables, return to a simmer, and putinto oven for 25 minutes. While pot is in the oven, combine first fiveingredients for biscuits in a bowl. Add butter and cut into flour mixture using a fork. Add milk. Stir.


For more information on safe food handling practices, visit USDA's The Big Thaw website at