The Reason You Should Never Use The Defrost Button On Your Microwave

The microwave is truly a wonderful tool in the kitchen and can be a real time-saver when you simply want to heat up last night's leftovers. While the microwave is primarily used for warming up food, it also has the defrost option. Despite the existence of this button, defrosting frozen food, especially meat, isn't something microwaves do particularly well. 

We get it — sometimes you forget to take out the frozen chicken, and by the time dinner rolls around, that defrost button is looking like a real life-saver. The defrost button might seem like a viable alternative to going hungry or waiting hours for the meat to thaw, but this microwave shortcut simply isn't worth taking.

The defrost button does more than simply defrost food

So why should you avoid the defrost button on your microwave? Well, basically it's a function that only performs at minimal effectiveness. When you put food in your microwave and set the time, it's heating it up on 100 percent power. Defrost and the rest of the preset buttons on your microwave only alter the power level that's heating the food. 

Bob Schiffmann, a microwave expert with 50 years in the biz, told Thrillist that when it comes to the defrost button, the microwave is simply zapping your food by pulsating between zero and 100 percent. You could essentially do the same thing, but hitting it on high for a minute, stopping it and then pushing start again... over and over.  

Yes, doing so does thaw your food, but the high power of the microwave's heat does more than simply defrost. "The general idea is to operate the microwave on less power to allow the item to thaw," Chef Rachel Ardee, told Reader's Digest, before adding that even though the button clearly says "defrost," it could actually cook the outside of your food or along the edges while doing so.

The result is that you might end up with a piece of meat where the middle is still frozen or barley thawed while the outer edges are completely cooked. This could be a dangerous cooking mistake and is certainly going to make cooking the meat how you intended that much more problematic — and possibly not very tasty.  

It's technically safe, but not recommended

While completely thawing your meat in the microwave is safe according to the USDA, doing so can also bring meat into the "danger zone" between 40F and 140F, which is where harmful bacteria might set in (via The Kitchn). If you do choose to use the microwave to defrost your meat (and sacrifice taste), make sure that you cook it and eat it immediately after thawing it, just to be on the safe side. 

As for defrosting other frozen foods, some fruits and veggies may lose their appealing color and some vitamin nourishment if you zap them in the microwave on defrost (via Cooking Light). Frozen herbs, for example, can lose a lot of their flavor if you defrost them in the microwave and then add them to a dish. 

The microwave defrost option may seem convenient, but you're probably better not using it.