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Don’t get sick: How to thaw food safely

Many folks are planning end-of-summer barbecues, albeit smaller ones because of the pandemic. Start planning your meal now and thinking about food safety.

For example, thawing burgers the wrong way could make you sick, and nothing ruins a party faster than food poisoning. Consumer Reports explains how to prep safely.

You should never leave food out on a counter to thaw, and don’t run it under hot water. Those methods can allow parts of the food to reach temperatures above 40 degrees, which enables any bacteria there to multiply quickly and may lead to foodborne illness.

The safest way to thaw food is always in the refrigerator because it will maintain a safe temperature, below 40 degrees. But that means planning. The larger the item, the more time it needs to thaw. A pound of frozen ground beef or boneless chicken takes a full day.

After thawing, poultry and seafood remain safe in the fridge for a day or two. And red meats are safe for three to five days after thawing, so you’ve got some time before you have to cook.

If you need dinner on the table faster, cold-water thawing can speed things up. You should put frozen food like raw meat in a leakproof plastic bag and place it in a bowl of cold tap water. For larger cuts of meat, you’ll want to change the water every 30 minutes. It should take about an hour to thaw a pound of meat. Once fully thawed, cook immediately.

If you need to defrost food even faster, there’s a “thaw” setting on your microwave. But CR says portions of the food may begin to cook during this cycle, encouraging bacterial growth. So foods thawed in a microwave should be cooked immediately.

In addition to thawing meat safely, CR says you also need to cook it safely. A meat thermometer can help make sure your food has been cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill any bacteria that may be present.