I can’t even count the times that I’ve forgotten to thaw something for dinner and quickly resorted to going out or eating processed junk food, like frozen pizzas. While that’s okay occasionally, frequent indulgences can certainly increase the size of your waist while decreasing the size of your wallet. So, it’s pretty much a lose-lose situation.
For a while, I was thawing my meat in the microwave. Unfortunately, this left the meat totally rubbery and unappetizing. Yuck! Fortunately, I remembered this cool trick from my college days as a deli worker and was able to apply it to everything! This trick completely turned the tide on my weeknight woes and allowed me to thaw any meat in 15 minutes or less. This miracle solution is a simple cool water bath.
To use a water bath, fill a large bowl with cool water. Use enough water so that when the meat or fish is inserted into the bowl, it will be completely submerged. Do not use hot water, because you will run the risk of bacteria growth.
As the meat is thawing, be sure to check it frequently. Occasionally, separate the individual pieces as they start to break free from each other. Also, change out the water if it becomes too warm or too cold. This will keep the process moving along without allowing for the growth of harmful bacteria.
When using a water bath, each type of meat has different considerations:
Fish and Shellfish – For a quick thaw, you will only be able to use fillets. Typically they are individually wrapped and can be dropped right into the water bath. If they are not wrapped, you will want to put the desired number of pieces into a press and seal bag before submerging. This will prevent the fish from getting water logged and loosing flavor. Follow the same instructions for shellfish. There is nothing worse than soggy shrimp or scallops.
Meats (chicken, beef, pork etc.) – Even with a water bath, thawing meats in 15 minutes or less requires a little bit of pre-planning. The key is to chop or dice the meat before freezing. It will also help, if while freezing, you lay the meat flat and try to keep the individual pieces separated. You can easily do this by freezing in a gallon sized press-and-seal bag. After the meat is frozen solid, you can can re-position the bag as you like. Again, keep the meat in the bag, while submerged, to prevent water logging and loss of flavor.
Ground meats (chicken, turkey, beef, pork etc) – The key to ground meats is to cook the meats before freezing. While cooking, I like to season the ground meats with versatile seasonings like garlic and onion powder. That way the meat will be flavorful without limiting you to a specific recipe. Like the meats above, ground meats thaw best when frozen flat. When you want to thaw, again, place in a press and seal bag and submerge in cool water. Break large chunks apart periodically.
I hope this simple tip will save you a lot of stress when you forget to take something out for dinner. I know it has helped me immensely.