You Shouldn't Use Your Microwave's Defrost Button. Here's Why

We all have our personal meal prep nightmares. For some, it's forgetting one or two critical ingredients from the store. For others, it's forgetting to defrost the meat you intended to cook. But before you take the centerpiece of your dinner plans and toss that into the microwave to thaw, there is something you should know: you may actually want to cook something else or order takeout instead. While the USDA considers thawing meat in the microwave as safe, you also run the risk of heating the meat unevenly, inadvertently overcooking parts of the meat instead. Another problem is that once thawed in the microwave, food needs to be cooked ASAP (via The Kitchn).

If you must have that cut of meat or that frozen vegetable, and you're determined to use the microwave, there is a way to do it that does not involve hitting a pre-programmed button and walking away. Instead, you'll have to microwave the cut by playing with your microwave's power levels manually and repositioning the food every few minutes. You also need to remember that each item needs a different time to thaw. Bone-in chicken pieces need to be handled differently from boneless chicken; steaks and chops need a different thawing time because they're not a delicate as ground meat. Even vegetables need to be monitored, otherwise some parts will cook while others defrost (via Epicurious).

Thawing food in the refrigerator is still safest: USDA

The USDA is adamant that the best way to thaw food, meat in particular, is remembering to leave it in the refrigerator to thaw. Doing that means that the meat's temperatures never venture beyond 40-140 F, which is when bacteria begins to multiply, so thawing meat in the fridge means that the cut goes from frozen to cooking temperature in a way that could potentially save you and your family from getting sick. Plus, meat thawed in the fridge gives you the option to change your mind (quickly), which means cuts can be safely refrozen and rethawed at a later date (via The Kitchn).

But if you're really in a bind, you can use tepid (not hot!) water to thaw out a frozen package of food — it's still considered safe, and you won't run the risk of overcooking. Just make sure the food is then cooked immediately, and that you have snacks on hand to keep hanger from taking over (via The Kitchn).