The traditional way to defrost frozen food is to place the food in the fridge to thaw slowly overnight. However, after a long day, planning tomorrow’s dinner may not be your top priority. While you can use other options to rapidly thaw frozen meat, fish, or vegetables, many aren’t perfect solutions. Microwaving can cook the edges while leaving the center frozen, and water baths are messy and inconvenient.
When you’re short on time or simply forgot to plan ahead, another solution is effective: the defrosting tray. Also called a thawing mat, defrosting trays are typically made of aluminum. They conduct heat from the surrounding air without using electricity, chemicals, or water.
While choosing a defrosting tray might seem like a simple decision, you actually must weigh a number of considerations. This guide explores several important features to look for as you shop and offers choices by category for some of the best defrosting trays available today.
- BEST OVERALL: Zintak Defrosting Tray
- RUNNER-UP: GEMITTO 2 in 1 Defrosting Tray/Cutting Board
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Danoib Fast Defrosting Tray
- BEST FAST: Mirra Kitchen Extra Thick Fast Defrosting Tray
- BEST COMPACT: ThawMax Rapid Defrosting Tray
- BEST WITH DRIP TRAY: HelferX Defrosting Tray with Bonus Drip Tray
- BEST 2-PACK: Evelots Meat Defrosting Tray Set/2
- MOST VERSATILE: X-Chef 2 in 1 Meat Thawing Cutting Board
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Defrosting Tray
Not all defrosting trays perform the same. Different factors affect their functionality, and some may be better suited for specific situations. Keep reading to learn more about several of the most important features to look for when choosing the best defrosting tray.
Consider how the defrosting tray will be used. They’re best suited for thawing smaller cuts of frozen meat; the exterior of larger items like a roast or whole chicken will reach too high a temperature before the middle defrosts.
Also look for a tray that allows the frozen item to lie flat against the surface of the tray so heat can conduct properly. Some items are better suited for this process than others, such as vegetables, steaks, fish filets, and hamburgers. However, use a different method to defrost chicken legs and other irregularly shaped cuts of meat.
The tray’s material is key to its ability to defrost. Most defrosting trays are made from aluminum, which is inexpensive and an excellent heat conductor. Copper also conducts heat well, and it may be used for some high-end defrosting trays. Since copper is susceptible to scratching and oxidizing, however, it’s typically coated with a nonstick aluminum finish.
Many trays have silicone borders to prevent juices and defrosting liquids from dripping onto the countertop. All materials used for a defrosting tray should be food-safe since they will come into direct contact with food items.
Defrosting trays often are relatively similar in size, with lengths between 11 and 16 inches and widths between 8 and 10 inches.
- 11-inch by 8-inch defrosting trays fit two or three servings of meat.
- 14-inch by 10-inch defrosting trays accommodate three to five servings of meat.
The depth of the tray also is relevant, because a thicker piece of metal is more effective at conducting heat. While a thin tray is easier to store, a thick tray likely will defrost food more quickly. Thicknesses typically range between 3 and 6 millimeters.
Most defrosting trays have a nonstick coating to prevent particles of food from adhering to the surface of the tray. If made from Teflon or similar materials and the surface gets scratched, it can potentially emit harmful chemicals.
To avoid scratches, wash a nonstick defrosting tray in the dishwasher if it’s dishwasher safe or by hand using a nonabrasive sponge. Some trays come with silicone cleaning tools designed to be gentle on the nonstick surface.
Although some defrosting trays are reversible with a cutting tray on the other side, the defrosting surface is never intended to be used as a cutting board.
The most significant factor in defrosting time isn’t the tray itself; instead, it’s the thickness of the frozen food. While thin hamburger patties may defrost in half an hour, a thick-cut steak could take much longer.
The temperature in the room also affects how quickly an item defrosts. According to the USDA, no food should be left at room temperature on a defrosting tray for longer than 2 hours to avoid the risk of foodborne illness. If the temperature of the kitchen is higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, that time frame can be reduced to 1 hour. To speed up the process, run warm water over the defrosting tray before each use.
Some defrosting trays are equipped with additional features such as legs, drip trays, cutting boards, and cleaning tools.
- Legs. Boards that are raised on legs will defrost meat more quickly because warm air can circulate underneath the board.
- Drip tray. A drip tray ensures that no water or meat drippings end up on a counter.
- Cutting board. Some defrosting trays are reversible, with a cutting board on the opposite side for chopping up meat or vegetables.
- Cleaning tools. Occasionally, a specially designed brush or sponge is included to gently wipe down the tray.
- Handle. A handle makes storing and maneuvering a defrosting tray easier.
Our Top Picks
It’s time to start shopping. These recommendations are based on size, materials, additional features, and overall quality. Keep reading to discover some of the top options on the market in a variety of categories to help get dinner on the table faster.
Zintak’s aluminum defrosting tray is both affordable and effective. The silicone edge ensures that any liquids are contained on the tray. Since it has small feet elevating it from the countertop, room-temperature air can circulate underneath and speed up the defrosting process.
The nonstick coating ensures that users won’t have to scrape off any residue after use. The tray is completely dishwasher safe, and the silicone edge is removable for a more thorough cleaning. The tray is large enough to fit three to five servings of meat.
This aluminum defrosting tray thaws food much faster than it would defrost at room temperature. Moreover, the tray is reversible, with a defrosting surface on one side and a scratch-resistant polypropylene cutting board on the other.
A silicone seal and groove around the edge keep liquids contained to prevent spills. The silicone pieces on each side prevent the board from slipping while in use. It has a large surface area, making it suitable for defrosting large quantities of food.
The handle provides a way to hang the board for storage. As an added bonus, this product comes with three additional thin cutting boards, each with an illustration to designate vegetables, meat, and fish.
The Danoib defrosting tray is a good choice for someone who wants to try out the technique without spending a lot. The ridged surface prevents liquid from pooling directly under the meat, and it’s sized for thawing two or three servings of meat at a time.
The surface is nonstick, and it’s also dishwasher safe. During use, this tray should be placed on a larger cutting board or baking tray because it lacks a border to stop liquid from spilling over.
Mirra Kitchen’s defrosting tray is made from aluminum and coated with a nonstick finish. The actual defrosting surface measures 14 inches by 8 inches. It’s 6 millimeters thick, making it thicker than many other options, and it’s grooved to allow for air circulation to ensure food defrosts as quickly as possible.
The included drip tray ensures a tidy defrosting process. Depending on the size of the cuts, the company estimates that steaks, chicken breasts, and pork chops can defrost within 30 and 60 minutes. The board is easy to clean and dishwasher safe. It comes packaged with two reusable, barbecue-safe baking mats.
The ThawMax defrosting tray is small but powerful. Based on its dimensions, it should be able to hold two or three servings of meat.
It’s made from food-grade aluminum and has a silicone border to contain juices. The short silicone feet elevate the tray from the countertop, providing space for room-temperature air to circulate and speed up the defrosting process. Both the aluminum board and the silicone border are dishwasher safe.
This model by Helfer is packaged with a plastic drip tray to keep the defrosting process as tidy as possible. It’s made from 3-millimeter-thick aluminum.
A silicone sponge is included to wipe any residue off the tray without causing damage to the nonstick coating. The tray is dishwasher safe, but the manufacturer recommends placing it on the top rack for best results.
Each tray in this set by Evelots measures 14 inches by 8.1 inches, providing plenty of surface area for defrosting enough meat or fish for a larger gathering.
Chicken breasts, steak, pork chops, fish, and lamb chops can be defrosted in under an hour, depending on their size, and thinner cuts like burgers and bacon slices can defrost in less than 30 minutes. Hand-wash the aluminum trays or place them on the bottom rack of the dishwasher.
This 2-in-1 tray by X-Chef has one side that features a nonstick aluminum defrosting surface, and the other side can be used as a cutting board. The cutting side is equipped with a groove along the edge to catch any liquids, and the defrosting side has a silicone border to serve the same purpose. All materials used are food-safe. Hand-washing is recommended.
The Advantages of Owning the Best Defrosting Tray
Defrosting trays are useful kitchen tools for thawing food quickly and safely. Not only do they save time, but they also offer additional advantages. They allow the user to:
- Avoid inadvertently cooking the food’s edges while defrosting food in the microwave.
- Save energy by using the ambient air and metal to defrost food.
- Skip trying to defrost food in messy water baths.
FAQs About Defrosting Trays
Now that you’ve learned more about defrosting trays, some questions may linger. The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about defrosting trays.
Q. Where is the best place to defrost frozen food?
For the most consistent results, place a defrosting tray away from any heat source and out of direct sunlight. Be sure to keep raw meat out of reach of children and pets.
Q. How do I use a defrosting tray?
To use a defrosting tray, remove the meat from the freezer; then unwrap it and place it on the tray. Flip the meat halfway through the defrosting time for best results. Never let meat stay on the tray for longer than 2 hours.
Q. Can I leave meat in a package on a defrosting tray?
The defrosting tray works better if you unwrap the meat and place it directly on the tray.
Q. How do I clean my defrosting tray?
Most defrosting trays are dishwasher safe, but they also can be washed by hand. Since they come into contact with raw meat, thoroughly clean them with hot soapy water to avoid the cross-contamination of bacteria.