There’s nothing quite as reassuring as opening up the freezer and seeing it stacked with high-quality proteins— juicy steaks, elegantly marbled pork, succulent bacalao—all just waiting to be seared to tender perfection. But there’s often confusion around how exactly to defrost meat safely, while still maintaining optimal flavors and textures.
You may be inclined to throw it on the kitchen counter for a few hours or run hot water over the packages if you’re in a bind, but unfortunately, those are not the safest methods for defrosting meats and seafood. Here, with a little help from the USDA, we’ll get into how to defrost meat safely, from refrigeration methods to how to defrost meat in the microwave.
How to Defrost Meat Safely
The best and safest way to defrost any kind of protein, especially whole cuts, is at a slow rate and at a cool temperature. That means taking it from the freezer and placing it directly into the fridge so it can defrost evenly, and most importantly, safely.
Keep in mind that large, whole cuts of protein take a while to defrost safely in the fridge, so it’s important to think ahead. On average, a cut of meat takes about a full 24 hours to defrost completely. Larger cuts with big bones throughout (bones help maintain the cold temperatures), or a piece like a whole chicken, turkey, or whole leg of lamb, will take about a full day for every 5 pounds of meat. If you’ve ever wondered why last-minute Thanksgiving turkey disasters always seem to happen, that’s why.
To defrost Ibérico pork, it varies depending on the cut. All of Campo Grande’s proteins come in vacuum-sealed packages, which helps them stay fresh longer. Most small cuts, like presa or secreto for example, will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-5 days in the package once they have defrosted. If you happen to open the package, you’re only looking at 1-2 days in the fridge.
Safely defrosting beef has similar rules, but beef can actually last longer in the fridge than pork. Cuts like roasts or steaks can last for about 2 weeks in the fridge, as long as they remain vacuum-sealed. But once they’re opened, they should be used within 3-5 days after they’ve defrosted. However, when it comes to processed beef like ground beef, it will keep for about a week in the fridge if vacuum-sealed.
Fish works a bit differently. When it’s time to defrost your bacalao or merluza, be sure to first take it out of the packaging. Bacteria can actually develop in the vacuum-sealed packaging of seafood if there isn't oxygen available. So let it breathe! Most seafood only lasts for 1-2 days in the fridge.
How to Defrost Meat in Water
Most of us are rarely prepared enough to think a full 24 hours ahead when it comes to dinner. So if you’re crunched for time and still want to throw that thick and juicy Vaca Vieja steak on the grill, there is an alternative.
To defrost meat quickly, place the sealed package (definitely needs to be sealed here!) of pork, beef, or seafood in a bowl in the sink and run cold water over the surface. Make sure the meat gets nice and submerged in the water as it fills the bowl. To prevent too much water waste, you can also fill the bowl with cold water and change out the water every 30 minutes or so. Make sure you keep an eye on the meat as it thaws, as it can happen faster than you think. A one-pound aged Vaca Vieja ribeye, for example, can easily thaw out in an hour.
How to Defrost Meat the Wrong Way
Okay, so maybe you’re really pressed for time and need those Ibérico ribs to thaw out yesterday. You can just run hot water over the meat…right? Wrong. Just like you shouldn’t leave meat on the counter for more than 2 hours to thaw out, you also shouldn’t try thawing it out with hot water.
There’s a little thing in USDA food safety called “the danger zone.” It essentially refers to a range of temperatures (40-140ºF) in which meat is ripe and ready for bacteria to invade and multiply. Even though the center of your fish filet may be completely frozen, running hot water over frozen food can take that outer layer into danger zone temperatures, which is just not something you want to risk.
How to Defrost Meat in the Microwave
That’s where the microwave comes in. Surprisingly enough, it’s perfectly safe to defrost meat in the microwave. Though it’s not ideal for getting those optimal delicious textures when it comes to cooking, it’s an okay last resort.
To do so safely, you just want to make sure you fully cook the protein immediately after thawing to prevent any bacteria from showing up. And if you microwave an Ibérico flank steak in a panic and immediately realize you actually don’t need it right away? Cook it anyway, and throw it in the freezer for later.
Thawing Out Your Campo Grande Protein
When Campo Grande Pork Box hits your doorstep, leave each cut nicely enclosed in its package and place it directly into the freezer. Then, figure out what sort of recipes you’re after. When the time comes time to defrost, remove it from the freezer, keep it in its packaging, and follow the steps mentioned above for the tastiest (and safest) results.
Want Campo Grande meat and seafood always at the ready? Stock your freezer with Ibérico pork, Vaca Vieja beef, and European seafood, and a healthy, protein-packed meal will be forever at your fingertips.
For presa ibérica with cauliflower purée on a Tuesday, creamy hake risotto for Friday night company, or a plethora of recipes focused on artisan pork, beef, and seafood, browse Campo Grande's tested recipes and cooking tips. Get in the kitchen and get cooking...bueno provecho!