It’s 6 o’clock, you’re getting hungry, the family is excited for your famous chicken dinner — but you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer! Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Waiting for food to defrost can take hours; fortunately, there’s an easy way to get dinner on the table in time. When done properly, defrosting food in a microwave is a quick and safe way of getting frozen meats, vegetables, soups, and sauces ready for cooking.
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What Exactly is Microwave Defrosting?
Almost all newer microwaves have a defrost setting that lowers their power by 30 to 50 per cent. This reduced power allows the microwave to defrost food without cooking it, meaning that you can thaw food much more quickly than by simply putting it in the fridge and waiting.
Is it Safe to Defrost Food in a Microwave?
Some people caution against microwave defrosting because it can put food in a “danger zone” — a temperature range that can allow bacteria to grow. To avoid dangerous food temperatures resulting from microwave defrosting, don’t let thawed food sit around. Instead, remove the defrosted food from the microwave and begin cooking right away.
Meats: Defrosting Chicken, Steak, Pork or Fish in the Microwave
For most people, microwave defrosting is most commonly used for thawing meat. To defrost fish, chicken, steak, or pork in your microwave, follow these easy steps:
- Defrost times depend on the weight of the meat, so remove your meat from the freezer and check the label for the weight (or weigh the meat using a kitchen scale).
- Press the defrost button. If your microwave does not have a defrost button, adjust your microwave to cook at 20 to 30 percent of its regular power.
- Set the length of time for the meat to defrost. The defrost time for most meats, including chicken, beef, or pork, is around 8 to 10 minutes per pound. For fish and other seafood, the thawing time can vary, so always refer to the original packaging for information. Some microwaves have pre-programmed times for different types of meat; if yours does, use these presets for best results.
- Don’t leave thawing meats unattended for long periods of time in the microwave. For the most consistent thaw, stop the timer every few minutes and flip the piece of meat.
- Once thawed, remove the meat from the microwave and begin cooking it immediately. Once your meat is fully cooked, you may refreeze any leftovers.
Produce: Defrosting Fruits and Vegetables in the Microwave
While it’s fast and convenient to cook frozen vegetables in the microwave, many instead prefer to finish cooking produce on the stovetop. As with defrosting meat, it’s best to keep an eye on produce as it thaws in the microwave. Here are some simple steps for getting the best results.
- Defrost times usually depend on weight, so remove your produce from the freezer and check the label for the weight (or weigh the produce using a kitchen scale).
- Press the defrost button. If your microwave does not have a defrost button, adjust your microwave to cook at 20 to 30 per cent of its regular power.
- Set the microwave timer for 2 minutes.
- Separate the pieces of produce as much as possible. For produce like cooked spinach, break the frozen blocks into smaller pieces.
- Thaw the produce at 20 to 30 per cent of your microwave’s full power for 1 minute for every 4 ounces. Stop the timer, stir the produce, and repeat until completely thawed.
- Transfer the thawed produce to the stovetop and cook immediately.