Proper Thawing
The thawing or defrosting of foods is considered a critical control point. This means that failure to control any hazards at this point may result in unsafe food. There are two major hazards to address when thawing food: avoiding cross-contamination and controlling the amount of time the food spends in the temperature danger zone (between 41°F and 135°F).
Proper thawing methods
Foods can be properly thawed using any of these four methods:

1. in a refrigerator at 41°F or colder,
2. using a microwave,
3. as part of the cooking process, or
4. under running water.
In a refrigerator at 41 degrees F or less
Thaw food in a refrigerator at 41°F or colder. This is one of the safest ways to thaw foods. There are a few things to remember:
  • Be sure to place a catch pan under the food being thawed to capture any drippings that melt off the product.
  • Thaw raw foods below ready-to-eat(RTE) foods to prevent contamination of RTE foods with drippings that may contain dangerous bacteria.
  • Plan ahead. Place frozen foods in refrigeration at least 24 hours in advance. Of course, larger volumes of food may take much longer to thaw. A 20 lb. turkey can take up to four days to thaw completely.
Using a Microwave
Foods that are to be immediately cooked can be thawed using a microwave. Microwave thawing actually begins the cooking process and must be followed by thorough cooking of the food.

This method is not recommended for large food items.
As Part of the Cooking process
Frozen foods can also be thawed as part of the cooking process. This method is more appropriate for foods such as frozen vegetables and ground meats that serve as ingredients in sauces or soups.
  • Allow additional time to cook and stir the food more often.
  • Check the internal food temperature with a thermometer to verify proper final cooking temperature is achieved.
Under Running Water
Frozen foods may also be thawed under running water as long as the following criteria is met:
  • The water flow shall be sufficient enough to flush away loose food particles.
  • Total time the food product remains under running water is limited to no more than two (2) hours.
  • The water temperature never exceeds 75°F (24°C).
  • Food surfaces need to remain completely immersed under the cold water at all times. There are various ways to achieve this. Check with your Inspector for details.
  • Once any portion of the food reaches 41°F it is immediately placed into diligent preparation, refrigeration, or cooking.
  • A clean and sanitized food preparation sink separate from hand washing and utensil washing is used.
  • Ensure thawing water does not spatter off the food and onto other foods and/or food contact surfaces.
For more information
For more information on food protection, please contact the Resource Management Environmental Health Division, (707) 784-6765.