Hot Sauce is Cool

Do you have a handful of shriveled chili peppers at the bottom of last week’s CSA box? And now a new CSA full of more chilies? Make hot sauce and use them up! Late summer and early fall is hot sauce season. Almost all the ingredients you need are available now from Vermont and New Hampshire farm stands and farmers’ markets.

Homemade hot sauce is easy and delicious. Also, it’s super cool.

My dad makes a sweet and vinegary hot sauce that can sit on the shelf for months, corroding the lid of the jar and getting more and more delicious. I grew up eating it on fried eggs and stir fries. After spending a year working in a barbecue restaurant, I started making my own versions. Now I make a few different kinds each August and September with whatever hot peppers are around.

There are so many ways to make hot sauce – ingredients and technique vary widely by culture and household. You can ferment it (like Sriracha and Tabasco) or use vinegar (like the recipe below). You can keep it plain or add sweetener and other flavors (herbs, fruit, oils, and spices). You can cook the peppers or leave them raw. Make what you like! A quick Internet search brings up a huge range of hot sauce recipes if you are looking for a specific style.
Most of my hot sauces are secret preparations, and sometimes the peppers just tell me what to do. But here’s a very simple formula for making your own.

The first step is to put on a pair of disposable gloves. Hot peppers will burn your skin for longer than they burn your mouth. I have made hot sauce without gloves with mixed results, but that habit ended abruptly after I spent most of a hot summer night last August lying on hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-2my bed alternately clutching a cold washcloth with both hands and dipping my fingers in ice water while trying to catch snatches of sleep.

If you are fearful of your hot sauce being too hot, remove the seeds and white membrane that holds the seeds and just use the pepper flesh. Absolutely wear gloves for this.

 

Simple Fresh Hot Sauce Recipe

Makes about 1 ½ to 2 cups

Ingredients

10 – 15 chili peppers, any kind
1/2 sweet bell pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves
teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup

Directions

  1. Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
  2. Wash the peppers and cut off the stems.
  3. If you want a hotter sauce, leave the seeds in. For a milder but still hot sauce, split the peppers lengthwise and remove seeds and the white membrane.
  4. Puree peppers and all the other ingredients in food processor or blender.
  5. Taste and adjust salt, sugar, garlic, and vinegar as needed. If it’s too thin, add more peppers and puree some more. If it’s too thick, add more vinegar.
  6. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge and eat within a few weeks.

hot-pepper-herb-sauces-credit-julia-a-reed-4

Shelf life of hot sauce

I don’t have one simple answer for this, but in general, if you have a lot of vinegar in the sauce, you can keep the sauce for a long time. What’s enough? Enough that it tastes pretty sour and is fairly thin, like commercial hot sauce. If you want to keep that fresh not-too-sour taste, use less vinegar and use up the hot sauce within a couple weeks. If you ferment or cook the hot sauce and use a sterilized jar for storage, the sauce may last longer. Discard if the hot sauce grows mold, gets slimy or discolored, or develops an off taste or smell.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

Curried Squash Apple Soup

This is the start of soup season at my house. Soups are comforting and can be super easy, like this amazingly delicious 3 ingredient soup (there are 3 main ingredients, but there are some spices and cider that you’ll need, too).

The original recipe is from Ina Garten, but I’ve made a few adjustments to reduce the spice level. A trick I use to make this a 15 minute soup is to pre-cook the squash. When I have too many squash rolling around the kitchen counter (CSA share back log, irresistible sale at the farm stand, garden abundance, etc.), I cook all the squash at once and then freeze what I don’t need. That way I can just pull the pre-cooked squash from the freezer and add it right into the soup.

(Easy tip for cooking winter squash and pumpkins: Cut whole squash in half, scrape out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet (lined with foil if you want to make clean up really easy). Add a little water to the pan and cook in pre-heated 350 degree oven until tender. Scoop flesh from the skin and freeze in pre-portioned amounts.)

curried squash apple soup


Curried Squash and Apple Soup
courtesy of Ina Garten, The Food Network

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp each butter & olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, and cubed
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 -1 tsp curry powder (adds heat & flavor)
1 1/2 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 cup apple cider, juice, or water

(Garam masala is a traditional Indian blend of spices including clove, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, and cardamon.  You can find it in most grocery stores or co-ops.)

Squash apples
Directions:
Heat butter, olive oil, onion, and curry powder in a soup pot on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add squash, apple, salt, Garam masala, cider or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until very tender.

Remove from heat. Puree with blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Return to heat and thin with cider to desired thickness. Serve and enjoy!

 

Five Ways to Stretch Your LOCAL Food Dollar

We know that spending our dollars in local businesses has a big and positive impact, both economically, environmentally and directly within our communities. We also know that those same benefits can be applied when we spend our food dollars with local farmers, which in turn have local cultural impacts as well.

This does not change the fact that local food can often be more expensive, or at least perceived as such, and for most of us, that means making every penny count.

  1. Purchase in Season. Vermont has become almost famous for its season extension techniques, as evidence of the gleaming hoop houses dotting our landscape. Although this is fantastic and beneficial, if you can stand to wait until July for your basil and August for your tomatoes, then you will find that because there is more product being produced, you will find a good price almost anywhere you decide to shop for your local food. Check out the Department of Agriculture’s Harvest Calendar to get a good idea of when food is typically being harvested in Vermont throughout the seasons.
  2. Take advantage of direct to consumer sales. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers’ markets, farm stands and pick-your-own crops are fantastic ways to get fresh, local produce at a price that works for you AND the farmer. The challenge is that it isn’t as easy as one-stop shopping at the supermarket, but a great way to know your farmer and your food. Go ahead. Compare the prices of a CSA to what you would purchase in the grocery store and you could see a savings of 10% to 25%.
  3. Support local cooperatives, buying clubs/bulk purchasing and online markets. If purchasing directly from the farmer is a little too much running around for a Saturday or you prefer to have more control over what you might get in a CSA box, explore your local co-op and buying clubs for better deals than the supermarket can get you. If you are interested in buying in quantity, either on your own or with friends, many farms are able and willing to give you a discount for a minimum purchase, even if it is just the one time. More recently, online farmers’ markets make purchasing from your local farmer nothing more than a click away and although a bit more expensive than purchasing directly at the farmers’ market, usually less expensive than picking it up from the local supermarket.

frozen chix header

  1. Go whole hog. Or chicken. Or cow. Or carrot. Unlike say, the rest of the world, Americans seem adverse (okay, squeamish) to using certain parts of an animal. Lengua or beef tongue, is delicious and easy to cook for a flavorful filling in a tacos, stew or chili. It is also just a few dollars per pound when compared to a sirloin steak. The same could be said for oxtail or shin steaks, parts of the cow that are both unfamiliar to many eaters as well as cooks, but make the most amazing and flavorful additions to a braising pot. Buy a chicken whole, roast it and after you pick the carcass clean of its meat, pop what is left, bones and all, into a big pot with cold water, a few carrot tops, some onion skin and herbs and make a broth that can be frozen into bags or freezer proof jars. Use the roasted meat for sandwiches, salads, in pot pies and casseroles as well as soup and stews. For my family of seven (of which four are active teens), I can feed several lunches and dinner at least twice in a week with two, 6 lb birds. At $4/lb, it comes to approximately $2.15 per person TOTAL, not including the 4 to 6 cups of broth still in the freezer for future meals. And I haven’t even mentioned carrot top pesto, or roasted broccoli stems or sauteed chard stems or fried green tomatoes or vegetable stock…
  2. Plan. Plan. Plan. Let’s face it. We waste food. Whether it is because we live in a throwaway culture, have eyes bigger than our stomachs or just let things rot in the back of the fridge, Americans waste approximately 30% to 40% of our food supply, which equates to 20 lbs of food per person per month. Twenty. Pounds. So, if you are going to spend your hard earned dollars on local food, try to spend a half hour or so each week, making a simple plan of how to use that food. Make menus, get comfortable with cooking a few key dishes and don’t be afraid to preserve food, turn it into stocks or create make-ahead meals for the freezer. Check the end of this post for some helpful links.

Resources:

  1. Huffington Post: Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent, Michael Saguero
  2. University of Vermont: Ten Reasons to Buy Local Food, Vern Grubinger
  3. North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Research Based Support and Extension Outreach for Local Food Systems
  4. Forbes Magazine: If You Buy Local, You’ll Have Less Money to Spend Locally, Eric Kain
  5. Vermont Department of Agriculture, Harvest Calendar
  6. Vital Communities
  7. Rutland Farm and Food Link, Farm Fresh Connect
  8. World Food Day USA

by Elena Gustavson, Rutland Area Farm & Food Link Everyday Chef

Quick Kimchi

Photo Julia A Reed

Photo Julia A Reed.

Cabbage, cabbage, everywhere – this is the time of year for the versatile Brassica. Napa cabbage (also called celery cabbage and Chinese cabbage) grows well in our region and is often found in fall CSA shares, at farmers’ markets, and farmstands so here is an easy recipe for this crunchy vegetable.

napa cabbage

Napa is a leafy vegetable that is low in calories, but high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C & K, and folic acid  – that’s a lot of bang for the buck! And, it happens to be versatile and delicious.

Kimchi is a traditional Korean fermented vegetable condiment. This unfermented take on kimchi is quick, easy, delicious and a great way to enjoy the bounty of napa cabbage available this time of year. I found this recipe on sheknows.com and it takes just a few minutes to prepare and can last in the refrigerator for several weeks.

kimchi ingredients

The heat comes from the sambal oelek which is a Southeast Asian hot chili pepper sauce that you can find in many stores in the International aisle. You can adjust the amount of chili paste you add to the kimchi to make it more to less spicy.

kimchi chopped napa

Quick Kimchi
adapted from she knows.com

1 head napa cabbage, rough chopped
8-12 cloves garlic, sliced
3 Tbsp sambal oelek chili paste
1/2 cup rice vinegar
salt to taste

mixing ingredients

Directions

Rough chop cabbage and mix with vinegar, chili paste, salt, and sliced garlic. Store in glass jar and refrigerate overnight.

ready for fridge

Photo Julia A Reed

Photo Julia A Reed

Simple Ideas Preserving Your Food

It is October, and as the days inch towards winter, there is a frantic rush to harvest what is left in our gardens and find a place in the cupboards, pantries, coolers and freezers. You see it at the markets too, with displays stocked full and overflowing with fresh eating produce, cabbages, greens, gourds, squashes and roots. It is delightful!

Elena apples

My favorite season for cooking is autumn. The heat of the kitchen seeps out into the rest of our house, staving off the morning and evening chills that punctuate this time of year, while I happily chop, stir, simmer and bake the hours away, not only putting food on the table, but putting food “by” for the cold days of winter.

Beginning in September, we are making apple cider, sauce and butter, picking herbs and hardy greens for the freezer, grabbing garden tomatoes for ripening, freezing whole or making chutney and looking forward to the fall berry season. By October, we are picking what is left in the garden for storage in our makeshift root cellar and the various drawers where we can tuck every onion, potato and squash we have harvested or bartered for. By November 1, with only a few hardy vegetables that like the cold, we are putting beds away for the winter and preserving what we can.

There are many ways to preserve food; some are simple and some are not, but most everyone can preserve a good portion of food and stock their larders. With a few simple tools, some supplies and a range, see below for some ideas of how to preserve our favorite vegetables.

Elena chardFreezing: If you have plenty of freezer space, freezing your food is a fantastic way to preserve fresh food quickly, safely and with nutrition intact. Some foods require blanching or cooking, while others just need a quick rinse and an airtight seal.

 

  • Try freezing whole tomatoes, berries, apple slices, peeled cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped onions.
  • With a pot of boiling water and a colander, you can blanch (boil briefly) and drain greens like spinach, chard, kale as well as vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots before freezing in bags.
  • For herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil, process into a paste with olive oil and then freeze the resulting pesto/pistou into ice cube trays or roll into logs, wrap in parchment and plastic first.

Canning: There are two methods of canning and lots of great information on the interweb, magazine articles and in books to give you the details, but the main thing to remember is that high-acid foods (berries, citrus) can be canned using the water bath method and low-acid foods (most vegetables, meats) can be canned using the pressure cooker method. Check out this site for more information.

Dry Salting: Different from pickling, which uses a salt AND acid based brine, salting is an ancient and very simple way to preserve food. The salt brings out the moisture from food and makes it “inhospitable” to the microbes and bacteria that would normally cause spoilage. Lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, use a low salt concentration to not only protect against spoilage, but also to create an environment that welcomes gut-friendly bacteria. High salt methods of preserving create an inhospitable environment for ALL bacteria and is still used by some to preserve things like green beans.

  • Layer shredded carrots and zucchini, sliced onion, minced garlic with sea or kosher salt and pack tightly into canning jars with lids. “Burb” the jars everyday to prevent buildup of pressure. Refrigerate or store at 40F or less to stop fermentation and keep.
  • Make kimchi or sauerkraut out of cabbage, radishes, carrots and onions. Use a wet brine of salt and keep vegetables submerged and away from air.
  • Check out the site Home Preserving Bible for a great collection of tips, techniques and recipes on dry salting.

Elena canningSyrups and Shrubs: Both of these old fashioned methods work especially well for berries and other fruit, but I have had equal luck with tomatoes, herbs and spices too. Use them in beverages, dressings and marinades!

  • For syrups, mix together two cups of berries, one cup of water and one cup of granulated sugar in a pot. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the syrup, solids and all, into a wide mouth canning jar and cap. Let cool completely before refrigerating.
  • For the old fashioned shrubs, make an infused vinegar then turn that into a syrup. Check out detailed, but simple, instructions at The Kitchn.

HerbsButters: An often overlooked way of preserving some herbs and fruits is by making compound butters. With sharp knife, you can make quick work of herbs and fruits, mixing and mashing them into softened butter. When done, roll logs of butter into parchment and freeze or put into ice cube trays and pop the frozen chunks into a freezer bag for easier storage.

  • Herb butter of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Call it Scarbo-butter Faire, just for fun.
  • Fruit butter of blueberry, cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt
  • Basil or cilantro butter mixed with garlic
  • Hot pepper butter with lemon rind

 

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL‘s Everyday Chef

Easy Ways to Preserve the Harvest

When the garden is over producing, and the CSA share is overflowing, finding quick ways to store the harvest for the winter is handy. Here are a few tricks I use to save the overwhelming September abundance for winter.

Freezing kale

Freezing kale

We are lucky that kale grows so well in New England, but sometimes there is just too much kale! Freezing is an easy way to store the endless CSA bouquets of this wonderful super-food. I wash the leaves, spin them dry, rip up the leaves and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Pop the pan in the freezer for about an hour and then transfer the frozen kale to freezer bags for easy storage.

I mostly use frozen kale for smoothies – just add a handful to the mix. It’s an easy way to add a healthy punch to any blender concoction. Kale is also a great addition to soups and stews.

 

Dehydrated Cherry Tomatoes

Dried tomatoes

An easy way to preserve these candy-like orbs is to dry them. Cut them in half, arrange them cut-side up on a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh herbs (optional), and liberally drizzle with olive oil. Dehydrate in a 200 degree oven for 5-7 hours. I put my dried tomatoes in a canning jar, adding enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes (while leaving an inch of head-space), and storing them in the freezer. In February a  jar of tomatoes in oil and a baguette are the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

cherry tomatoes with herbs Photo

 

 

Herbs: Bring on the Fresh

Cooking with herbs lends a bright, fresh note to food and whether used sparingly or with gusto, can completely transform a dish.

Easy to grow (many tend to benefit from benign neglect), herbs can live on a sunny windowsill or outside in a garden, making it fairly easy for most cooks to keep on hand. Read on for five different ways to use fresh herbs in your everyday cooking.

Herbs

Salad Dressings and Marinades

Herbs like parsley, thyme and cilantro, can play a starring role when it comes to salad dressing and marinade. Combine vinegar or lemon juice, a heart healthy oil like olive, safflower or canola oil, salt and pepper with your favorite, readily available herbs. Don’t be afraid to really pack in the green! Stem woody herbs like thyme or oregano, and roughly chop the stems and leaves of softer herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro and chives. If you decide to stem all of your herbs, throw the stems into a favorite oil to infuse overnight or bring a pot of vinegar to a simmer, add the herbal discards, cover and let steep for an hour or two. Strain out the solids, bottle and use on anything you like!

parsley

Herb Pastes: Pesto, Pistou & Sofrito
Combining fresh herbs with olive oil and garlic is used throughout many regions in the world. Many of us are familiar with pesto – a sauce made by processing basil with olive oil and garlic, along with pine nuts (or pignolas) and parmesan cheese – but there are variations of this sauce throughout the world. Pistou, originating in the Provencal region of France, processes basil with sea salt, olive oil and garlic – no cheese or nuts. Sofrito uses cilantro, garlic and olive oil, adding peppers and paprika to the mix.

My favorite is a very basic paste of herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro or a combination thereof), garlic, olive oil and a pinch of kosher or sea salt, frozen in 1 1/2 inch logs wrapped in parchment, wax or freezer paper. I then pop the logs in a plastic bag and freeze. Whenever I need a bit of fresh herb flavor for sauces, butters, marinades, etc, I take a sharp knife and slice off what I need – no thawing necessary – and pop everything right back in the freezer for next time.

cilantro

Herb Salad
Nothing says summer than a fresh herb salad. Mix mints with basil, lemon balm with oregeno, cilantro with garlic chives or any other combination you can think of. For a quick salad, mix your favorite herbs with shredded greens like chard or spinach. Sprinkle with sea salt, ground black pepper, minced garlic, a sprinkle of your favorite vinegar or squeeze of something citrus and a heart healthy oil like olive or safflower. If you had a few edible flowers to include like nasturiums, borage, or violets, all the better.

Tea
When you have more herbs than you know what to do with, make tea! Mint, an easy to grow herb, can be used fresh by either pouring boiling water over leaves or allowing them to soak for a couple of hours in cold water. Also try basil or parsley with lemon, chamomile and thyme with a slice of cucumber. You can also gather herbs and dry on paper towels or by hanging in a dry, breezy spot, out of direct sun. Store in an airtight container and enjoy all winter long.

 

Preserving Summer Herbs
Most of us know that herbs can be preserved by drying or by processing into oil (like the herb pastes above) and freezing, but you can also preserve herbs in butter and vinegar.

For butter, add one part minced herbs to two parts softened butter and mix. Shape into a 1 1/2 inch log, wrap in paper and freeze. Slice what you need when you need it, straight out of the freezer!

For vinegars, you will need glass bottles with cork stoppers or plastic lids (vinegar eats away at metal). Fill the bottle(s) with cider vinegar for more robust herbs like rosemary or white wine vinegar for more delicate tasting herbs like lemon balm or thyme. Add fresh or dried herbs, pushing into the bottles with a chopstick or wooden skewer, and close the bottle tightly. Use 1/2 cup of herbs to 2 cups of vinegar, but feel free to experiment with ratios. Store in a cool, dry place.

 

by Elena Gustavson, Everyday Chef

Berries: Delicious, versatile and in season now!

Enjoy this new post from RAFFL guest food blogger, Elena Gustavson about how to get the most out of our short berry season.

With a short growing season, somewhere between 90 and 120 days, and the variable weather, growing in Vermont can be a challenge. Maybe because of this unpredictable climate where every tomato harvested feels like a victory and home grown stone fruits are rare indeed, is why we love our berries so very much.

 The berry season in Vermont typically ranges from late June to early October. In our short, but fruitful season, we can enjoy raspberries and strawberries (although neither are technically real berries), then move into summer with currants, gooseberries, elderberries, blueberries and ending with a glorious flush of blackberries.

black raspberries to pick

At our place, a typical day of picking usually consists of at LEAST one person exclaiming “I ate more than I put in the bucket!”, a testimonial to the irresistible allure of the ripe, sun sweetened fruits. Fortunately though, with so many farms in the area cultivating these fruits and the luck of coming across wild or long forgotten patches throughout the State, harvesting enough berries for cooking and preserving isn’t usually too difficult to accomplish if you have the time and an empty container.

 

So, for those of you who find a pint of uneaten berries still hanging around in your cooler, read on for tips and ideas on storing, washing, freezing and using berries this season.

 

Storing and Washing Berries:

  1. Refrigerate right away. Chilling the berries for an hour or so before you wash them, helps keep these fragile, sun warmed fruits from falling apart under the water.
  2. Store on a shelf and NOT in the crisper or a drawer. Allowing air to circulate around the berries helps keep them fresher, longer.
  3. DO NOT rinse berries until you are ready to eat them. Helps retard mold growth.
  4. Rinse and drain in a colander. Do not soak or let them sit in water.

currants

Freezing Berries:

  1. Best Practice: Spread washed and dried berries on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, in one layer and freeze for several hours. Transfer frozen berries to a freezer safe bag or container, removing air if possible, and keep frozen for several months.
  2. My Reality: Loosely pack into quart size freezer bags, remove air with a straw and seal tightly. Lay on side in freezer. Leave there for 6 months in the way back, under freezer burned vanilla ice cream, before discovering during a frantic search for sugar one late night.

 

Tips for Use:

  • Eat fresh on everything.
  • Simmer a pint of berries, with sugar to taste, until the berries break down. Eat sauce on everything.
  • Simmer a pint of berries, with sugar to taste, until the berries break down. Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime juice in there, strain out the solids and store in the refrigerator. Use berry syrup in everything.
  • Use frozen berries in smoothies, pancakes, waffles, muffins, pie, cake, parfaits and fools.
  • Pickle berries. No, that is not a typo – here’s a great recipe from Kitchn food blog.

Scape Season

When a garlic bulb matures and sends up a stalk for a flower with the goal of reproducing, the flavorful shoot is called the scape. Garlic scapes are abundant this time of year, but have a very short season. So when you’ve had enough of adding them to your stir-fries, a quick way to preserve the scape season is to freeze pureed scapes. The frozen paste can be thawed to make a delicious scape pesto, used as a rub for a roast, or as the base for a sauce for pasta or potatoes. Substituting garlic scape puree for garlic can add a little zing to any dish.

Puree scapes in food processor

Making the puree is super easy. Chop of the flower head from the scapes and puree the stalks in a food processor until smooth. Spoon puree into small to medium size containers. Fill containers to the top because you don’t want any air to cause freezer-burn. Date and freeze.

Last week when I was in a rush to get dinner on the table, I substituted the scape puree for basil pesto on a pizza. I drizzled the pre-cooked pizza crust with olive oil and spread the puree over the crust. Then I added chopped sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese and heated it up for about 10 minutes. Everyone loved the unique flavor combination, and the garlic had enough zip to be interesting.

final scape2

You can take it one step further and make pesto by adding nuts and cheese to the food processor. You can find an Everyday Chef post about Garlic Scape Pesto here.

 

Frozen Meat Primer

A common question I get from customers at farmers’ markets is if I have any meat that is not frozen. They are shopping for that evenings’ meal and don’t have time to thaw it. Occasionally, farmers will have fresh meat for sale, but the majority of locally raised meats are frozen, so knowing techniques for quickly and safely thawing frozen meat can be handy when shopping at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

 

If time is not an issue, thawing meat in a refrigerator is the best option. Be sure to place the meat in a bowl or pan in case the package leaks during the defrosting process which will help keep the fridge clean and avoid limit the possibility of cross contamination. It is important that you make sure your refrigerator is less than 40 degrees F. The USDA’s Safe Food Handling Fact Sheet has valuable information about food safety including the fact that dangerous food borne bacteria can grow between the temperatures of 40-140 degrees F. It is important to limit the amount of time your thawing meat (any meat or prepared food, really) is in the ‘danger zone’. The refrigerator is the safest method, but in a pinch using a microwave or a cold water bath to speed up the process can work, if done correctly.

frozen chix

 

Cold Water Bath
Submerge your packaged meat in cold water. Unpackaged meat can attract bacteria from the air and absorb too much water, so put the meat in a ziplock bag if needed. Replace the water as it warms (about every 30 minutes) with fresh cold water. This technique will speed up the thawing process significantly.

water chix gallery

Microwave
Using the defrost mode on your microwave is another way to get the meat on the table quickly. When defrosting in a microwave it’s important to cook the meat immediately. The microwave isn’t ideal for defrosting red meats (it negatively affects the quality), but chicken and pork can be ready for cooking in no time using the microwave.

 

Grilling steak

Cooking Frozen Meats
Another option is to skip the thawing process altogether. America’s Test Kitchen  determined that the quality of beef steaks (especially grass-fed beef) improves when cooked while still frozen. For those who like a rare or medium-rare steak, cooking a frozen steak is the way to go.

This cooking technique is courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated chef Dan Souza

  • Heat skillet filled 1/8 inch deep with oil
  • Sear until browned (90 seconds per side)
  • Transfer to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet
  • Cook in 275-degree oven until desired doneness (18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak)

Another handy tips when you are have a whole frozen chicken and need to have a meal on the table for dinner is to cook it frozen. It will take 50% more time to cook, but you can roast a whole chicken frozen and have a delicious dinner in a few hours. It is not recommended to cook frozen meats in a slow cooker because of the uncertainly about how long the meat will be in the danger temperature zone.

You can also boil frozen chicken. Boiling a whole frozen chicken has the advantage of giving you delicious chicken stock AND cooked chicken for several days worth of meals.

Thawing Frozen Meat FAQ

Can I refreeze meat that has been frozen and thawed?
Yes! If thawed in a refrigerator and packaged correctly you can refreeze meat that has been previously frozen. This is a great tip when you have a large package of meat and don’t want to cook it all at once. If frozen in an air-tight package there should be no loss of quality.

I just found a frozen chunk of meat at the bottom of my freezer – is it still good?
Hard telling, not knowing… You can find the FDA quidelines for storing foods here. Freezing (below zero) keeps food safe indefinitely, it is the quality that can be affected by length of time in the freezer and the type of packaging. Try to clean out your freezer at least once a year to be sure you use all your frozen goodies while they are still good.

Grill happy

How long is my refrigerator thawed meat good for?
Sorry, there is no one answer to this question. It depends on the type of meat (ground vs. whole, seafood vs. lamb, smoked vs. fresh), the type of packaging (vacuum packaging lasts longer), how long is was fresh before being frozen originally. The best advice is to use common sense, use your nose, and don’t take any chances.

These rules are true for all frozen meats!

1 2 3