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Defrosting beef is only safe by three methods: in the refrigerator, immersed in cold water or in the microwave. Defrosting beef on the counter, or in other locations, is dangerous because of the bacteria can that gather in these spots. Refrigerator: If this is your chosen method for defrosting your beef, understand the process will be slower. Ground beef, steaks and meat for stew will take about a day. Whole roasts and other bone-in beefs take about two days. Cold water: Keep beef in the package. Be sure it is airtight and there are no leaks. Keep the meat in cold water and change it every half hour. Smaller packages will take an hour; larger ones will take two to three hours. Microwave: Cook meat immediately because the meat browns or cooks slightly during the microwaving process. Do not re-freeze partially cooked meat because there are likely still bacteria present. Bacterium does not die in the defrosting process.