Proper thawing is very important as it will keep harmful bacteria from contaminating your meat as well as other foods nearby. It will also preserve the quality and taste of the meat. There are three well known ways to thaw out frozen meat, in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or in a cold water bath.
Thawing out meat in the refrigerator is the best method as it will preserve the meat’s quality and taste the best. The drawback is that it can take a long time. Obviously this depends on the size of the meat, but a couple days can be common. When thawing in a fridge, place the meat in a container like Tupperware so when the meat is thawed the blood wont drip onto other foods. Also for the same reason it is a good idea to store the meat on the bottom shelf. There isn’t much that needs to be done here as long as you plan a few days ahead for the meat to be properly thawed.
You can also use the microwave. The plus side is this is the quickest method, but the downside is this method will begin to warm and even cook the meat, and the meat will lose its flavor, texture and quality. When microwaving be sure to remove the meat from any packaging so it doesn’t melt into the meat or release chemicals into the meat and place the meat in a microwave safe container or plate. Most microwaves have a defrost button that can be set to how many pounds the meat is. The best advice is to microwave the meat in intervals so you can check its progress and not overcook it. Plus, microwave only cheap cuts of meat or meat that is going to be used in a dish where the microwaves potential effects on the meat wont affect it much. So ground beef dishes would work.
A cold bath is a good method to thaw out meat and time wise isn’t too bad, you can properly thaw meat even if you have only a few hours to spare. Plus the meat can stay in its packaging. The caution is to change out the water as it gets warm, every 30 minutes to an hour, and not to let the meat sit in the water once it is thawed as water can leak into the packaging and the blood can leak out, this will effect the flavor and texture of the meat. But if done properly this is a great way to thaw meat. Simply place the meat in a bowl that will allow you to fully cover the meat with cold water and place in the sink. Sometimes a weight on the meat to keep it submerged in the water can be helpful. Now as mentioned monitor the water temperature and the meat.
Finally, some people wonder about leaving meat on the counter to thaw. This is not a good method as harmful bacteria can enter the meat. The only time this is good is if your meat has mostly been thawed in the fridge or cold bath and you want to finish it on the counter in less than 30 minutes. Some cooks like to bring the meat to room temperature before cooking. But as mentioned it is not recommended to leave meat out for over 30 minutes.