Some microwaves have a defrosting feature based on the weight of the frozen food. Microwave defrosting, whether weight-based or not, is the act of thawing frozen foods in the microwave oven without cooking them. It must be done at lower power to keep from cooking the food on the outside while it remains frozen or raw inside. Thawing food at room temperature for more than an hour or two can cause dangerous bacteria to grow in it that will make you sick when you eat it.
Microwave defrosting offers a faster way to defrost food before cooking than defrosting in the refrigerator; by using a lower microwave power setting, food can thaw instead of cooking.
Microwave Defrost Setting
Many microwaves come with a defrost button. When used, this button automatically sets the oven's power lower, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of its full power. Such a low setting allows the heat waves to penetrate the center of the food before cooking the outer layers. Most of these buttons require you to know the approximate weight of the food you are thawing.
Microwave Weight Defrost Meaning
For microwaves that have a defrost-by-weight option, such as certain GE models, this feature also typically includes settings for different types of food group, including meats, poultry and fish. To thaw chicken in microwave oven, for example, you'll need to set more defrosting time for a whole chicken than for cut-up chicken, even though the whole bird and individual pieces are both in the poultry food group. Consult your user manual to find out if your microwave has this defrost option.
Microwaves With No Defrost Button
If your microwave is not equipped with a defrost button, simply set the appliance to cook at 30 to 50 percent of its full power. Many meats require eight to 10 minutes per pound being thawed, so base your time on the weight of your item. For instance, if you are thawing 1 pound of chicken, set it on eight minutes, but stop it frequently to turn and flip the meat to be certain it gets thawed through. Do not leave thawing meat unattended.
After Defrosting in Microwave
Do not leave thawed raw food in the microwave but instead cook it immediately. It can be cooked thoroughly in the microwave (using a cook setting instead of a defrost setting) or transferred to a conventional oven. You may freeze the food again after it has been cooked completely, but never refreeze defrosted food without cooking. Always remove all packaging from food before placing it into the microwave or oven.
Other Methods of Defrosting
To safely defrost food without a microwave, place frozen food in your refrigerator until it is thawed. To more quickly thaw food, submerge the package in cold water for a few minutes. It is important that the outer layer of the food not get above 40 degrees F, as this is the temperature at which bacteria can begin to grow. Any time you are thawing food, especially food containing raw meat, keep a close eye on it, and cook it as soon as it is thawed. Frozen foods have a long shelf life, but refrigerated foods do not.
Angela Baird has been writing professionally since 1995. She has a wide range of life experiences from work with abused animals with the Humane Society, to more than 20 years of hands-on experience in the culinary arts. In addition, she keeps horses and does her own home improvements and home gardening.