Here's how to thaw frozen food safely

Having frozen food on hand is really convenient if you plan ahead. Hungry kids and a frozen pork chop are not a good match. But you want to make sure you thaw your food safely. Consumer Reports said they are right ways and wrong ways.

Like many of us, Josenny Teneo saves money and time by using her freezer.

"My strategy is to buy in bulk and key number one-- to separate into small portions. It lasts me a longer time when I buy in bulk and put it in the freezer," she said.

But even with her freezer fully stocked, getting dinner on the table takes a little planning. You should never leave food out on the counter to thaw. And don't run it under hot water.

"These methods can allow parts of the food to reach temperatures above 40 degrees, which enables any bacteria there to multiply quickly and may lead to foodborne illness," said Dr. Sana Mujahid, with Consumer Reports, Food Safety Research and Testing.

The safest way to thaw is always in the refrigerator because foods maintain a safe temperature, below 40 degrees. But that means planning ahead. The larger the item, the more time to thaw. A pound of frozen ground beef or boneless chicken takes a full day to thaw.

After thawing, poultry and seafood remain safe in the fridge for a day or two. Red meats are safe for three to five days after thawing, so you've got some time before you have to cook.

Need dinner on the table faster? Coldwater thawing can speed things up.

"You should place frozen food like raw meat in a leak-proof plastic bag," she said.

For larger cuts of meat, you'll want to change the water every 30 minutes. It should take about an hour to thaw a pound of meat. Once fully thawed, cook immediately.

Need defrosted food even faster? There is a "THAW" setting on your microwave. But Consumer Reports said portions of the food may begin to cook during the thawing cycle, encouraging bacterial growth, so foods thawed in a microwave should be cooked immediately.

In addition to thawing meat safely, Consumer Reports said you also need to cook it safely. A meat thermometer can help make sure your meal has been cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present.
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