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How to Defrost Meatballs

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Frozen meatballs, be they cooked or raw, make it a lot easier to cook a delicious dinner without spending a lot of time on preparation. 

Plus, with the many varieties available, it’s easy to incorporate them into meals a couple of times per week.

But how to defrost meatballs? The best way to defrost meatballs is in the fridge. This can take anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on the size of the meatballs. Quicker ways to defrost meatballs is under running water and in the microwave. 

Continue reading for step-by-step instructions for defrosting meatballs using different methods!

What Is the Best Way to Defrost Meatballs?

Having meatballs in the freezer is a good idea as you can cook a variety of protein-rich dishes without having to deal with the preparation process of raw meat. 

You can freeze both cooked and uncooked meatballs. Commercially manufactured meatballs are typically fully cooked. In any case, you often need to defrost meatballs before cooking them. 

Defrosting meatballs properly is important as only in this case you are able to maintain the juiciness of the meat as well as brown the meatballs first if needed. 

defrost meatballs

But what is the best way to defrost meatballs?

The best and safest way to defrost any food is to first transfer it into the fridge. Doing this doesn’t expose the food to drastic temperature changes which helps preserve the texture

The second reason why thawing food in the fridge is the safest method to defrost is because the food thaws while staying cold constantly. So, there is no chance for bacteria to spread and grow. 

Here’s how to thaw meatballs in the fridge:

  1. First off, plan ahead. Thawing meatballs in the fridge will take a few hours. If you are expecting guests the next day, remember to take the meatballs out of the freezer in advance. 
  2. Take the meatballs out of the freezer and transfer them into the fridge. 
  3. If you have frozen meatballs in large batches, take out only as many meatballs as you need.
  4. Place the meatballs on a plate and cover with cling wrap to prevent food contamination. 
  5. If you are defrosting meatballs in their original freezer packaging, consider putting them on a plate to avoid leakage. 
  6. Check on the meatballs every few hours to see if they have thawed. Depending on their size, meatballs may take from 8-12 hours to thaw. 

Other Methods 

While the fridge is the best method to defrost meatballs, it is surely not the quickest. You don’t always have 8 hours to thaw meatballs.

Additionally, it is a common problem for everyone to forget to transfer food from the freezer into the fridge for the next day’s dinner

Luckily, there are quicker ways to defrost meatballs. And while these methods work well and are quite easy, you should be careful to keep the meatballs within the safe temperature range and not allow them to get warm. 

Cold Water 

Placing frozen food under running cold water is an easy way to speed up the defrosting process.

Using cold water to defrost food is safe and quick as the cold water is warmer than the frozen meat but it is still cold enough to not let it get dangerously warm. 

Here’s how to thaw meatballs in cold water:

  1. Put as many meatballs as you need in a zip-top bag. Squeeze out the excess air. Make sure to use a bag that seals tightly. 
  2. Place the bag with meatballs in a bowl. 
  3. Place the bowl under running cold water. 
  4. Alternatively, you can fill the bowl with cold water and change it every 30 minutes until the meatballs thaw. 

In the Microwave 

A quick method to defrost meatballs is using the microwave. But this quick method also has its downsides. First, the microwave can make the meatballs drier. And second, if you are not careful, you may start to cook the meatballs. 

If you decide to defrost meatballs in the microwave, here’s how you should do it. 

  1. Remove the meatballs from the packaging they have been frozen in. 
  2. Place the meatballs in a microwave-safe container and cover them loosely. Try to arrange them so that they don’t touch one another. This way the meatballs will defrost evenly. 
  3. If your microwave has a defrost function, use it when thawing the meatballs. This setting reduces the power of the microwave power by 30-50 percent which makes the defrosting process more efficient and the food doesn’t cook. 
  4. Defrost for 10-20 minutes on defrost setting and for around 10 minutes on reduced power. 
  5. No matter what setting you are using to defrost the meatballs, keep checking on them every few minutes and flip if needed. 
  6. Once the meatballs have fully thawed, cook them immediately.

Can You Defrost Meatballs at Room Temperature?

When you are in a hurry, you may want to try defrosting meatballs at room temperature. While the meatballs will thaw a lot quicker at room temperature, this defrosting method is not safe. 

Defrosting meatballs or any meat product at room temperature creates a high risk of bacterial contamination and food poisoning. 

If you let the meatballs defrost at room temperature, they may become warmer than 40°F. The temperatures between 40-140°F are the danger zone.

These temperatures make the bacteria in meat grow quickly, making it unsafe for consumption. 

So, defrosting meatballs at room temperature is something we recommend you never do. 

Can You Defrost Meatballs in Hot Water?

Giving the frozen meatballs a hot water bath will certainly help defrost them quickly. But as tempting as it may be to go for this quick thawing method, we recommend you never do it. 

Defrosting meatballs in hot water will make them reach a temperature higher than 40°F. This creates suitable conditions for bacterial growth

If you want to defrost meatballs in water, use running cold water. 

Can You Cook Meatballs Without Defrosting?

So, what should you do if you don’t have time to defrost meatballs safely? Skip the defrosting step! You can cook with frozen meatballs too. And it doesn’t matter if they have been cooked prior to being frozen or not. 

How to Cook Meatballs Without Defrosting

Cooking meatballs without defrosting works great for soups and sauces. The long cooking time allows the frozen meatballs to cook through. 

It is especially important to allow raw frozen meatballs to cook long enough. If you don’t cook raw frozen meatballs long enough, the very center of the meatballs may remain raw or undercooked. 

cooking meatballs

Another great idea is to cook frozen meatballs in a sauce in the oven. Put the meatballs in a casserole dish and add your favorite tomato sauce to them

Cover the casserole dish with foil and cook the meatballs for around half an hour. Then remove the cover and cook for additional 10 minutes to brown the meatballs. Precooked frozen meatballs will require a shorter cooking time. 

Times, when it is not possible to cook meatballs without defrosting them, is when you need to brown the meatballs first.

You can’t do this with frozen meatballs. They will thaw and create steam in the pan preventing the meatballs from browning. 

Can You Refreeze Defrosted Meatballs?

Refreezing may greatly impact the flavor and texture of your food. But refreezing food, including meatballs, is still safe if you do everything right. 

There are two rules to follow if you are refreezing meatballs. First, refreeze them only if you have thawed them in the fridge. We recommend you never refreeze food that has been thawed in the microwave or in cold water. 

And second, only refreeze meatballs if they have been stored in the fridge after you defrosted them and it hasn’t been longer than two days.

If you have thawed meatballs and didn’t need them anymore, refreeze them as soon as possible for the best results

When refreezing meatballs, make sure to do it following all the instructions for freezing meatballs successfully, including flash-freezing meatballs first to prevent them from sticking to each other. 

How to Defrost Meatballs in Sauce

You can defrost meatballs in sauce by transferring the container from the freezer into the fridge. 

Alternatively, you can reheat meatballs in the sauce right from the freezer. There are a few ways to do this. 

One of the best ways to reheat frozen meatballs in the sauce is to put them in an oven-safe dish and cover them with foil. Bake the meatballs in sauce for 45 minutes or until they are fully thawed and heated through

You can also defrost and reheat meatballs in sauce on the stovetop.  Put the frozen meatballs in a pot and turn on the low heat.

Give the meatballs and the sauce enough time to thaw and heat all the way through. If needed, add a small amount of water or broth. 

If you’re looking for some new meatball recipes, here’s a great video from the folks over at Tasty!

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