How to Defrost Meat in the Microwave Safely? (6 Easy Tips)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

Although I prefer defrosting meat the old-school way, I have to admit I’ve used the microwave a few times when I was in a rush to prepare a meal.

Defrosting meat in a microwave is not a complicated process, but it is essential that you do it right.

Through trial and error, I’ve learned the ins and outs of this defrost option and narrowed it down to six simple steps.

Here’s what you need to know.

Quick Summary

  • Choosing the right microwave setting is essential to defrosting meat properly.
  • Most meats defrost in the microwave for eight to ten minutes per pound.
  • Make sure to use a heat-proof plate before putting the meat in the microwave.

Step 1: Check the Condition of Your Meat

Checking the condition of a meat from the freezer

Whether it's raw meat or cooked meat, you need to check your food for signs of spoilage before you begin to prepare it for cooking.

If meat in the freezer is discolored or has a bad smell, it should be thrown away.

Moreover, if it has a freezer burn, this is a sign the meat has gone bad.

Do not defrost and cook meat with large ice crystals, as it may not be in good condition.

Step 2: Put Meat in a Microwave-Safe Container

Once you have established that your meat is safe to eat, you can place it in a microwave-safe container or on a microwave-safe plate.

A glass container works well, or else a microwavable Tupperware.

Make sure any plastic wrapping on the meat has been removed prior to going in the glass container.

Step 3: Choose the Right Heat and Length of Time

A person sets the microwave settings before defrosting the meat

Depending on what meat you are defrosting, you need to select the microwave settings carefully. Know roughly how much your meat weighs and what cut or kind it is.

If you select the defrost button on your microwave, it may ask you how much your meat weighs and select the appropriate setting for you.

If your microwave does not have a defrost food button, you may need to reduce the power by 20% or 30%.

Step 4: Regularly Check and Turn Your Meat

When you know the appropriate defrost time, and what microwave power setting you need to use, you can begin the defrosting process. This should only take minutes.

Keep checking the meat and turning it every 45 seconds or so. Ensure meat is not actually cooking in the microwave and that all areas are thawing evenly.

Step 5: Make Sure It is Properly Defrosted

A pork meat on a wooden board that is properly defrosted

It is essential that you properly defrost meat before cooking it. If your meat has not fully defrosted, it will not cook properly.

You also need to be careful not to accidentally cook meat while defrosting it. A lower power setting allows meat to warm all the way through without cooking the outside.

When you defrost chicken and other poultry, the joints should be supple. Food is defrosted when it is completely soft.

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Step 6: Cook Immediately (or Refrigerate for a Short Time)

Once you thaw meat, cook it straight away or refrigerate your food immediately.

You should cook immediately following the microwave defrost because warm meat is the perfect breeding ground for dangerous bacteria [1].

Complete thawed meat can be refrigerated for a short time, but cooking food immediately is the best option.

“Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 ° and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the "Danger Zone."
- United States Department of Agriculture

Also Read: What Is the Healthiest Method for Cooking Meat?

Safety Tips for Microwave Defrosting

A person defrosting chicken in the microwave

Here are a few things to remember before using the microwave to defrost meat.

  • Most meats defrost in the microwave for eight to ten minutes per pound. However, the defrost time for thawing food will vary depending on the meat, so look this up.
  • Make sure that your meat has finished defrosting before taking any next steps in the food preparation process.
  • When you defrost food from the freezer, remember that raw meat is still raw even when frozen. You're handling raw meat, so don't forget to wash your hands.
  • Another top tip is not to leave defrosting meat in hot water or out on surfaces for a long time. After just two hours of sitting in a warm temperature range, harmful bacteria can grow on the meat.
  • When you cook frozen food, your oven cook time will be around 50 percent longer. But again, this should be assessed based on individual cuts and intended results.
  • Avoid cooking frozen meat in the slow cooker. It will spend too much time thawing and can become unsafe to consume.

FAQs

What Is the Easiest Way to Defrost Meat?

Microwave defrosting is the easiest way to defrost meat. However, refrigerator thawing and cold water are safe alternatives that involve less work, as you can leave thawing meat unattended for longer than meat in the microwave.

Can You Cook Frozen Meat Without Defrosting It First?

Yes, you can cook some frozen meat without defrosting it first. Ground turkey and ground beef are examples of meat products you could cook from frozen.

Do I Always Need to Cook Meat As Soon As It Is Defrosted?

You don’t necessarily need to cook meat as soon as it is defrosted. The general rule is that the sooner you cook defrosted meat, the better. Once defrosted, some food, such as ground meat, fish, and poultry, should be cooked within a day, while other meats will last in the fridge for a couple of days.


References:

  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/how-temperatures-affect-food
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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
Iva Carter is a FBP certified foodie and influencer who loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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