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Contributors: Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN

Published: June 05, 2020

Reviewed: February 11, 2020

frozen meat

Are you planning dinner for the week and want to use some of that pork you stored in the freezer a few weeks ago? There are a few ways to thaw frozen foods to safely use them.

Thawing is primarily used for frozen meats, poultry and seafood. Most vegetables can be cooked without thawing. It is important to follow these guidelines to thaw foods safely because bacteria can multiply rapidly when food is left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours — and only one hour, if the temperature is hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

How To Thaw

There are three safe methods to thaw frozen foods:

1. In The Refrigerator:

  • Plan ahead. Most items can take an entire day (or overnight) to thaw.
  • Place frozen food on a plate or in a container to catch any juices that may leak.
  • Keep the item that’s thawing on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
  • Any food that’s been thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen, either before or after cooking.

2. In Cold Water:

  • This is a faster thawing method compared to thawing in the refrigerator. However, it could take a couple of hours, depending on the food's weight.
  • Put the frozen item in a watertight plastic bag or container.
  • Submerge the item in cold water.
  • Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook immediately after thawed.
  • You must fully cook all foods thawed with this method, before refreezing them.

3. In The Microwave:

  • Remove any plastic or outer wrapping on the package.
  • Place in a microwave-safe container and cover.
  • Follow your microwave's instructions to defrost.
  • Cook immediately after thawing.
  • You must fully cook all foods thawed in the microwave before refreezing.

Cooking Without Thawing

If you don't have enough time to thaw food before cooking, it is safe to cook foods from a frozen state — but your cooking time will be approximately 50% longer than for foods that are fully thawed.
Most frozen vegetables can be cooked without thawing. Cook them in ½ cup or less of water, drain and then season with your favorite herbs and spices.

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