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Stand-Up Training: Thawing Food

Food worker moves frozen turkey to the refrigerator to thaw. It’s important to do it correctly to keep food safe and customers healthy.

Empower Employees Through Food Safety Training

Thawing is a necessary step when working with food. It’s important to do it correctly to keep food safe and customers healthy. Use this training to teach your employees why thawing is important and how to do it properly.

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

After this training, employees will be able to:

  • Explain the temperature danger zone
  • Recognize the risks of thawing food improperly
  • Describe the proper thawing methods for various types of food
  • Identify when to discard food that has been improperly thawed

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as part of the stand-up training.

  • The temperature danger zone is between 41°F (5°C) and 135°F (57°C). Keep time/temperature control for safety (TCS) food out of the danger zone as much as possible, including during thawing.
  • There are four acceptable methods for thawing:
    • Thaw food in the refrigerator. This is the best method because it keeps food out of the danger zone, but it takes time. Plan for about 1 day for every 5 pounds of food.
    • Cook the frozen food as part of the cooking process. Monitor temperatures to make sure the food cooks properly. This method is ideal for ground foods like ground beef.
    • Use a microwave for thawing. The food must be cooked immediately after thawing in the microwave.
    • Submerge the food under cool running water. The water must not get hotter than 70°F (21°C). Keep food in sealed packaging. This takes about 30 minutes per pound of food. Check the water temperature often.
  • If thawing is done improperly, pathogens in food can grow to unsafe levels. Even if the food will be cooked later, it could still have enough pathogens to make customers sick.
  • If a food has been in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours, throw it away.

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

Danger Zone Review

Discuss: What is the temperature danger zone? Why is it dangerous? Make sure your employees mention that the temperature danger zone starts at 41°F (5°C) and ends at 135°F (57°C). Bacteria grow quickly when in this temperature range.

Explain: To prevent pathogens from growing to unsafe levels, we need to check food temperatures often to keep it out of the danger zone. Review guidelines for what makes a food TCS (Time/Temperature Control for Safety).

Quiz: Which foods in our establishment are TCS?

Display (optional): Show your staff the TCS Foods poster to help them recognize common TCS foods.

Thawing Challenge

Challenge: Present examples of thawing and ask your employees if they’re correct or not. After they give their answers, discuss why the example was correct or not.

Before this activity, think of methods of proper thawing and improper thawing. Review the proper methods in the facts section of this training. Improper methods include leaving food out on the counter or putting it under hot water. Give several different examples of good and bad thawing practices to make sure employees can understand the difference. Also include any needed corrective action, like throwing away food that has been in the temperature danger zone for too long.

Safe Thawing Methods

Watch: Watch the Thawing Food Safely video with your employees.

Discuss: What are the four acceptable methods of thawing food? Go through the pros and cons for each method, including foods that are thawed using these methods in your establishment.

Teach: Explain the specific methods and practices you expect your employees to follow during their shifts. Be sure to include any documentation you expect them to fill out while thawing foods.

Following Up

Using safe thawing methods is one part of the sample health inspection form found in the FDA Food Code. When a health inspector comes to your establishment, they’ll be watching to see that your employees use approved thawing methods for food. They may also ask an employee to describe the thawing process they typically use.

Help your employees prepare for your next health inspection by making sure they’re practicing safe thawing methods. Watch them as they thaw food during their shift. Ask them to explain the thawing method they are using and why each step is important. Offer feedback as needed. You can also train your shift managers to help you monitor your employees and report back to you.

As needed, review acceptable thawing methods at the beginning of a shift. Remind employees about the temperature danger zone and why it is important to stay out of it as much as possible.

Create thawing documentation for your establishment if you don’t already have it. For example, you might ask employees to fill out a log of when food started thawing, where it’s thawing, and how long it takes. This is a great way to keep employees aware of food safety. It also helps you to understand if the employees are following proper procedures.

Training Resources

Use the Temperature Danger Zone Poster during your training or put it somewhere in your establishment. This reminds workers what temperatures can be dangerous for food.

Use the Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) Foods Poster as a reference during your training or display it in your establishment. It will remind employees which foods are TCS and need to be regularly monitored for temperature control.

The Thawing Food Safely video can be helpful to provide a general overview of thawing methods and why they are important. View the Spanish version of the video here: Descongelar Alimentos de Manera Segura.

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Take a minute to do our feedback survey.

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— Kylie Molen

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