According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the danger zone is a meat temperature range between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Meat left in this area for even a short time can harbor and grow bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis and E. coli. Leaving meat unevenly thawed and not cooking it right away, especially in the first 20 minutes, could cost you an unwanted trip to the ER.
Luckily, if you forgot to properly thaw your item in the fridge the night before (or in the morning), there are a few healthy ways to thaw your food without using the microwave. Thawing with cold water is faster than using the refrigerator, but according to the USDA, you’ll need to be vigilant and change the water every 30 minutes for up to three hours.
If you’re looking to thaw meat even faster, set a pot of water to 140 degrees. The Journal of Food Science recommends placing your cut of meat in a resealable bag and letting it sit in the hot tub for three to nine minutes, depending on the size and type of meat (via The New York Times). But this method should probably only be used as a last resort: leave it in warm or hot water for too long and your food could start to cook or enter the danger zone.
Whichever method you choose, however, it’s definitely best to think twice before hitting the defrost button on your beloved microwave. Let this gadget heat up our beloved breakfast burritos instead.