The best method for thawing food in the refrigerator is to allow sufficient defrosting time. For instance, an entire turkey needs 24 hours for each 5 pounds of weight. Smaller packages of foods such as ground beef or chicken breasts require a full day.
Cooks must keep in mind that some areas of the refrigerator are colder than others, and this affects thawing times. The colder an area is, the longer food takes to thaw. A refrigerator thermometer helps locate cooler and warmer areas. Meat or poultry should sit on a plate or pan during thawing to keep juices from spreading to other foods. Another way to prevent cross-contamination is to put the frozen food on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest way to thaw, because food maintains a safe, constant temperature.