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How to thaw frozen meat FAST

You need to make something to eat so you head to the fridge–nothing. Where did that chicken go? Oh yeah. It’s frozen along with pretty much everything else you planned to cook. Now what? Follow these steps and learn how to thaw frozen meat FAST.

frozen chicken, beef, bacon, and shrimp in an image grid

A note on food safety:

Before we start this little tutorial, you need to remember a few things so you don’t make anyone sick. Thawing meat and food safety is right up there with trying to assemble something written in French with a bunch of parts labeled A to Z. If you mess it up, your life’s gonna a be hard. So remember this:

  • Use this method ONLY when you will be cooking the thawed food right away. Never thaw meat/warm it and then refrigerate it again. It will grow bacteria. You could puke.
  • Always cook meat to it’s proper temperature. If you don’t know how, it’s good idea to invest in a meat thermometer.
  • Remember to wash any utensils or surfaces that come in to contact with raw meat with hot soapy water and never put an uncooked item like fruits or vegetables on a surface where raw meat has been without washing the surface first.

Got all that? Okie doke. From here out, it’s easy sailing.

Here’s how to thaw frozen meat fast:

Doggone it. Dinner's frozen. Now what? Follow these steps to thaw frozen meat evenly in a flash.

How to thaw frozen meat FAST

Learn how to thaw frozen meat fast without a microwave. Keep the quality of your meat intact (no rubber edges) and get dinner done in a flash. 
4.50 from 2 votes
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Author: Rachel Ballard


  • See Instructions


  • Place your meat to be thawed in a zip-top plastic bag. Make sure the bag is water tight and doesn't have any holes in it. If your frozen meat is in its original packaging, unwrap it before you put it in the bag.
  • Heat a pot of water large enough to hold the meat on the stove until the water is very hot, but not boiling or simmering. You may see some steam and that's fine. Shut the water off, and place your meat in the water. Use something heavy to hold it down below the surface of the water. 
  • Check on your meat every 10 minutes or so until you can begin to separate pieces (if they are stuck together) and keep them in the warm water until thawed. If the water gets cool, it's okay to rewarm it with the bag in there--just turn the burner on for a minute or two then right back off. 
  • As pieces begin to thaw you can remove them from the bag and let the other pieces have more time. The total amount of time needed will vary depending on how thick your meat is. 
  • For fish or shrimp you should need about 10 minutes to thaw. 
  • For boneless chicken about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • For hamburger about 20 minutes. 

Always thaw responsibly, and happy cooking!

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  1. I just tried this and it works really well I hate when I’m defrosting hamburger in the microwave and the sides start to cook! Same with chicken. It’s sort of gross. So thanks Rachel for yet another good trick! I just found you and I love your site! Thanks!

    1. Well for some things that works Suzzan, but if you want to preserve the texture of the actual food, this method is going to do that. Microwaves are certainly unpredictable in their ability to defrost food without cooking part of it. –Rachel

    2. Actually thawing in hot water promotes bacteria growth at a fast rate. I have taken many food safety courses and that is a big no no. Constant running cold water, microwave defrost or fridge is the safest way however cook right away if done in microwave.

    3. Hey Dan, I hear you but if you’ll note, the key is fast. I’d never want anyone to do this if they were planning to leave their meat in hot water for hours. It literally takes 15, 20 minutes at the most and then (as I made it incredibly clear with the whole food safety section at the very top) the food should be cooked immediately. The time it takes for cold running water or the fridge is exactly what we were trying to work around and the microwave makes rubbery gross thawed food. I realize those are the “recommended” methods but this version won’t hurt a thing when the food is thawed and cooked ASAP. Food held above 40 degrees for longer than 4 hours is the cutoff for food safety concerns. We are well within that limit with this method. –Rachel

  2. Re defroster plates – I ordered a solid copper plate.
    I ordered the 8 x 8 size to use on my gas stove for small pans but use it mainly for defrosting. Amazing how fast this works. For faster defrosting, run copper plate briefly under hot water then place food directly on top. Within a few minutes you can turn over and defrost second side. Unbelievable how well such a low tech device works.

  3. 4 stars
    Hey Rachel – While panning through your recipes, I was awestruck in finding this in depth article about defrosting food. I would like to add my two cents worth to that subject, if you don’t mind.
    About fifteen or so years ago, my late wife gave me an “800” phone number and asked me to call and order a “defrosting plate” for, what else…$19.95 plus the usual. At the time I thought she’d been sucked into one of those telemarketing schemes…how wrong I turned out to be. When the package arrived, I tore it open, as I could hardly wait to see this pig-in-a-poke I had bought. The plate is a metal, coated in a black finish, with eleven, even groves cut in the top surface. It measures about 14″ x 8″ and weighs 2-1/2 lb. The instructions simply said to run it under hot tap water for one to two minutes and place the food to be defrosted on a piece of plastic wrap for forty minutes, and then turn over for another thirty minutes.
    My wife, Hilda, always wrapped meats in the same procedure when preparing for freezing. First remove all store packaging, next rinse and dry all pieces (as required), next wrap in waxed paper then heavy aluminum foil and finally place in a freezer zipper bag, When she defrosted, she’d open the bag and dispose of the foil and put it back in the bag to defrost on the plate. She found that the foil acted as an insulator and greatly slowed the defrosting time by half.
    Wow it took me longer to explain this “wizard” than to use it! So why did I bother you with all this superfluous nonsense..,well, simply because I know these plates to still be available, just not from a telemarketer…these things are still showing up at flea markets, consignment shops, etc., and normally at next to nothing prices. I can truly say this is one kitchen tool that has been used at a maximum. Just thought you might want to know.

    1. I’ve seen pans like that Jack! Not in a long time but I am familiar with them. I wish I had one!! And thank you for this idea–maybe a reader will come across one and be able to pick it up. –Rachel

    1. Hey Toni, I mean, yeah–it does. If you don’t mind some of it getting partially cooked and turning to rubber while it’s in there. And to me, it’s not reliable for seafood ever. The flesh is just too delicate. I use it for hamburger some depending on what I’m doing with it and I always end up with a chunk that cooks super hard while the rest is defrosting. I prefer the water method for things I want to thaw evenly. –Rachel

  4. 5 stars
    Yes, definately the way to go. I take it a step further and individually package my meat from the store in the cheap (less environmentally unfriendly) ziploc bags, and then freeze them. Come time, I just grab a bag ready to go and actually just put it in the sink with hot tap water. Once I’m done cutting the meat up etc, I’ll just wash the sink to be extra sanitary.

    1. Well that sounds like a good plan David. Do you ever have trouble with freezer burn? Sandwich bags are pretty thin…unless you don’t keep your meat in the freezer very long, then that would make sense. I wrap my meat in plastic wrap and then in to a big zip-top freezer bag for storage and that holds mine pretty well. Thanks for your comment and please come back soon! –Rachel

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.