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Frozen food is very convenient, but defrosting it can be a pain in the neck. Normally (especially for small items) I could easily defrost frozen food with a microwave, but I don't own one! Simply leaving it out on the bench works, but is both slow and possibly unsafe (the slow process can encourage bacterial growth). Surely there is a better way.

Does anyone know of any fast, easy ways of defrosting frozen food (or anything else, for that matter) easily?

  • 4
    How about a microwave? – Dawnkeeper Dec 9 '14 at 22:31
  • @Dawnkeeper , definitely worth mentioning, however you can cook the food on the outside if you're not careful. – felixphew Dec 9 '14 at 22:32
  • @felixphew microwaves even have those defrost setting (never seen one without it). The time of defrosting is essentially given by the food's thermal conductivity, unless some high tech device is involved. – Tomáš Zato Mar 9 '16 at 12:33
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One method that works really well for flat things (like steaks) is to place them on a frying pan or baking tray, unheated. The metal conducts heat into the food really quickly. This should work for other flat objects too.

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    This works even better when the object has much surface to conduct heat into the frozen food. There should be a physics post around explaining how these work. – Vogel612 Dec 9 '14 at 22:38
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    Once that pan or tray gets cold, you can switch it out with a new room-temperature pan or tray. – BrettFromLA Dec 5 '17 at 17:21
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I fill the kitchen sink with very hot water and place the plastic package of frozen whatever in there. Packages of frozen chicken parts thaw in about 15 minutes and individual salmon filets in about 5 minutes.

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    I always do this when I need to defrost something inmediatly – Mario Garcia Dec 4 '17 at 14:54
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One thing that my father does to defrost things is to leave them in the sink, under running water. While he does this correctly, this comes with a few caveats from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Thawing in cold water requires less time but more attention than thawing in the refrigerator. This should only be used if the water is kept cold (less than 70°F) and the food will thaw in under 2 hours. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, meat tissue can also absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product. As an alternative to constantly running water, the bag of food could be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes as the food continues to thaw.

See also the USDA factsheet on thawing.

....although, according to wikiHow, the fastest and easiest method of defrosting meat is by microwave; though you had already excluded that by your lack of one. Running water seems to be the fastest alternative to microwave, but it takes some more attention. :)

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Most microwaves have a defrost setting to defrost food without warming it up. This can even be used to slightly soften stiff ice cream of butter.

  • Just thought i'd add: microwaves also heat from the outside in, they don't magically penetrate the food. Also see my comment to @Dawnkeeper above. – felixphew Dec 9 '14 at 22:34
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    There is a defrost setting on most microwaves that is used for this. – J. Musser Dec 9 '14 at 22:36
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    @felixphew microwaves do in fact penetrate the food. Not magically, just physically. That's why the food gets so unevenly heated, and some things can pop or explode in a microwave. – Kevin Dec 11 '14 at 4:33
  • @Kevin they do penetrate the food to a limited degree, but outer regions still cook (or thaw) faster (due to greater exposure), to such an extent that the outside can start cooking before the inside is even defrosted. I found this out (and for that matter, I also got my defrosting tip) from an excellent book on food science by Bob Wolke. – felixphew Dec 12 '14 at 19:25
  • This no longer answers the question, as per the most recent edit (that made the question on-topic). Sorry! – Shokhet Dec 23 '14 at 22:48
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@michaelpri I did put the second answer in, because it was relevant in both cases but you seem to have deleted both. I could understand you deleting one or replacing it with a link. It is impossible for me to comment there.

I repeat my answer in this one place so as not to break the rules.

My oven has a defrost setting where it blows cool air over the food - it thaws a whole joint of meat in about two hours - a single piece of chicken should be fairly quick to thaw and also fairly safe. See if your oven has one? Mine is indicated by an icon of a snowflake; perhaps you never noticed it on your oven?

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