The right way and the traditional way of defrosting chicken has been a hot topic in the Sanders household the past week.
If you dive into the subject, it is a tangled mess of people convinced every cut of meat is covered in salmonella to the old die hard saying they are still around thawing on the counter. While the old timers may still be around and carrying around survivor’s bias, why risk it? Not only does it take just as long to defrost as the safe approved methods, it won’t possibly land you hugging the toilet for a few hours.
Food processing and safety has improved greatly in the last 50 years. You are no longer at a high risk of getting trichinosis from undercooked pork — the thought of eating cooked dead worms really does it for me. Only 100 cases are reported a year and are often in connection with undercooked wild game.
Some processes were invented because standards where getting out of control and making people sick.
Take milk for example. Before the USDA stepped in nearly 100 years ago, 1 in every 4 food borne illnesses were caused by tainted milk. The process to modernly pasteurize milk had been around since the 1800’s, but there were no standards to require it. Now there is nearly no risk of drinking a carton of milk. But not too long ago you were taking a 25% chance of getting seriously sick.
According to Consumer Reports, up to two-thirds of chickens bought in the United States could contain either Salmonella, Campylobacter, or both. Improperly defrosting and handling could lead to you and yours not feeling so well, or even death. In fact, the CDC estimates Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in the United States every year.
Let that sink in. That’s over 1 in 300 people getting sick from improperly defrosted or handled raw chicken. And all it takes is a little know-how to avoid those risks.
The easiest and most comparable way to defrost chicken on the counter, is to defrost it in cold water. Fill up a bowl, drop the sealed chicken in and wait 2-3 hours. Change the water every 30 minutes or so to keep it cold. This way curbs any kind of bacteria growth by keeping the chicken under room temperature.
You can also use a microwave to defrost if you are in a pinch. Personally, no matter what I do some parts of the chicken get defrosted, others cooked and some parts are still frozen. It’s like just tossing a heat ray blindly and hoping for the best. If your microwave skills are better than mine, this might be the way for you. In a matter of minutes your chicken will be defrosted and good to go. Make sure to use it right away because it is now a Salmonella playground and you will want to make sure those baddies go away.
The last real safe way to defrost chicken is in the refrigerator. While this is a set it and forget it method, it will take a long time. I have waited two days on a package of chicken breasts before. If you know what you are going to want for dinner a few days from now, go for it.
These methods, along with safe common sense food handling, will help keep you from being sick.