Safest methods to ‘quickly’ defrost meat and cook it from frozen

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Planning meals in advance is one way to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet but it can quickly go wrong when you forget to defrost your chosen protein. Whether it’s chicken, beef, or fish, eating any of these foods before fully defrosting them can be risky, though according to experts it can be done safely if you follow a few key steps. They explained that while you may have to adjust the recipe you planned on making, last-minute defrosting is possible using a pressure cooker and some water.

The best method for defrosting meat safely is overnight in the fridge until it is completely thawed, whether it be fish, red meat or poultry. But when you can’t do this, you can use a pressure cooker.

Gill Boyd, chef-instructor of Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, noted that one of the easiest ways to speed up the thawing process is to cut the meat into smaller chunks. 

She said: “Smaller cuts of frozen meat, around one to six ounces per piece, work best. This will ensure the meat cooks all the way through in a timely manner.”

If the protein is larger and more difficult to slice while completely frozen, you can place it in a bowl of cold water, as long as it is still wrapped in packaging. Do this for a few minutes until you can easily run a sharp knife through the meat.

Ground meats like beef, turkey and pork can be even more tricky to defrost quickly from the freezer, though these brick-like products will perform well in a pressure cooker without any defrosting beforehand.

However, if you don’t have a slow-cooking appliance on hand, you can safely defrost the meat partially in the microwave. Do this for three to five minutes on a high power setting until soft, but before the meat changes colour.

The culinary expert noted that frozen ground meat can be used to “quickly” make chilli or bolognese sauce, though it should be avoided when it comes to homemade burgers and meatballs.

Gill noted that this is because ground meat heated from frozen will cook as it defrosts and won’t stick together properly.

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Frozen chicken on the bone should also be kept out of the pressure cooker as it will take longer to defrost and won’t stay intact while cooking.

In fact, cooking meat on the bone in this energy-efficient appliance is essentially like cooking it with giant, hard ice cubes, which isn’t ideal for taste or texture.

While chicken and some pork joints on the bone should instead be defrosted using water or in the fridge, cuts that tenderise when heated can be cooked from frozen in a pressure cooker.

This included short and baby back ribs which can be easily split into smaller pieces and cooked.

To do this, Gill recommended cutting them into small sections of two to three ribs per rack and rubbing them with seasoning before cooking on high in the pressure cooker for around 30 minutes.

If you want to utilise the water content in frozen, consider adding it to broth-based recipes like ramen. All you need to do is reduce the quantities of other liquids in the dish.

As the frozen meat cooks, the ice will melt and become water. While some of it will turn to steam, the remainder will be retained in the pressure cooked.

Instead of adding the liquid before cooking, either utilise the water content as it cooks or save the liquid for other dishes. It will be full of flavour and prevent any other dishes from tasting watery.

In terms of seafood, frozen prawns are one of the easiest foods to cook in a pressure cooker straight from the freezer. Like anything cooked in such appliances, the dish will benefit from some fresh seasoning when served.

For other fish, your best bet is to defrost them in cold water. Simply place the fish in a shallow dish filled with water in the sink, and leave the tap dripping a fresh stream on top. This is assuming the product is in moisture-proof, sealed packaging.

As with any meat, whether it is cooked from chilled or frozen, it is crucial to check the temperature of the food you have cooked from frozen in a pressure cooker to ensure each cut is cooked to a safe temperature for serving.

That’s 75C for chicken and turkey, 71.1C degrees for ground beef, and 75C for pork. You should also cook frozen meat in a pressure cooker promptly, rather than letting it defrost at room temperature for any amount of time before the cooking process begins as this could lead to bacteria in your food.

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