When food needs to hit the table fast, the microwave is a go-to for quick cooking. It can take days for meat to defrost in the fridge, hours in the sink, but only minutes in the microwave. With cycles and settings designed specifically for safe, steady defrosting, don’t be afraid of this convenient option. Learn how to properly defrost meat, vegetables and fruit with this guide and get answers to common defrosting questions. Find general microwave cooking and reheating use instructions here.

What should I know about defrosting meat in the microwave?

Microwave defrosting infographic

How to defrost chicken, ground beef, steak and other meat in the microwave

Step 1: Remove packaging and place meat in a container

Unless directly stated, food packaging should not go in the microwave. A glass container works best for defrosting.

Step 2: Select the defrost option 

If your microwave doesn’t have a defrost button, manually adjust the power setting to 20% or 30% using the Power Level button. If your model does have a defrost button, it may ask you what type of food you’re defrosting and its weight to calculate the defrost time. If your model doesn’t ask for information about food type and weight, input the time yourself: generally meat should defrost for 8 to 10 minutes per pound. Find the meat’s weight on the packaging or place it on a kitchen scale. Watch this video to see how to select microwave defrost settings on Maytag® microwaves. 

Step 3: Rotate, flip or break apart the meat periodically

If your microwave doesn’t have a turntable that rotates automatically, rotate the meat manually every few minutes to ensure even defrosting. It can also be helpful to flip large chunks of meat or break apart separate pieces that are stuck together. This will help the meat defrost faster and more consistently.

Step 4: Cook immediately

Cook food immediately after it’s defrosted. Leaving food too long could cause bacteria to grow, so try not to let it sit in the microwave while you prep the rest of the meal.

Woman removing plate of fries from a microwave

More about defrosting in your microwave

What is microwave defrosting, and how does it work?

Many microwaves have a button labeled “Defrost” that lets you quickly thaw frozen foods. It uses standard microwave heat but reduces the power to around 30%, thawing food but being careful not to cook it. Many models also let you input the weight or type of food to calculate defrost time. 


Like all microwave settings, food is heated through electromagnetic waves created by a magnetron. Settings that use lower power levels, like Defrost, achieve this by simply cycling the magnetron on and off rather than leaving it on the whole time, which would be 100% power. Learn more in our guide about how a microwave cooks food.


Is it safe to defrost food in the microwave?

Yes. Using your microwave to defrost food is safe, but you must cook the food immediately after it’s done defrosting. If food is allowed to sit much longer than the appropriate defrost time of 8 to 10 minutes per pound, harmful bacteria could begin to grow. Also, don’t microwave defrost any food that has already been sitting out of the freezer for more than 20 minutes. Instead, slowly defrost it in the fridge or in a bowl of cold water.


How long does it take to defrost food in the microwave?

Microwave defrosting time depends on the type of food you’re defrosting as well as its weight. Generally, fruits and vegetables take 2 to 3 minutes. Meat takes 8 to 10 minutes per pound. Check for instructions on the frozen food packaging to ensure you’re defrosting your food correctly. Learn more about defrosting chicken in the microwave in our guide.


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