Here’s a kitchen tool that would’ve saved me every time my mom asked a younger me to take meat out of the freezer in time for dinner, but I forget. Basically, this nifty tool gives you the gift of time by thawing meat quickly, evenly, and safely; the best defrosting tray renders frozen meat ready for cooking in record time and is large enough to accommodate the number of servings you need to defrost.
Variables like meat thickness and protein type influence the overall time, but a defrosting tray thaws meat much faster than in the fridge — in as little as 40 minutes to about two hours.
The number of people you typically serve dinner can help dictate what size defrosting tray fits your kitchen. For two to three servings, 11 by 8 inches is most likely enough to fit each portion on the tray without overlapping pieces. Look for a larger tray measuring at least 14 by 8 inches to serve three to five people.
Defrosting trays are typically made of aluminum, a metal that conducts heat well for quick thawing, with grooves for added airflow. Most have water reservoirs, drip stoppers, or trays that are helpful for catching any condensation from the meat as it thaws, and a nonstick surface on a dishwasher-safe tray also makes cleaning up easier.
With all this in mind, below are the best defrosting trays, whether you're cooking for yourself or your whole family.
1. The Best Overall Defrosting Tray
- Dimensions: 8.7 by 14.4 inches
This large defrosting tray is made from aluminum with a Teflon coating and features a grooved surface. It is wide enough for three to five servings, plus it's conveniently dishwasher-safe with a silicone edge to catch any drippings for simple clean-up. Protein type and portion thickness (as well as the overall number of portions) affect the defrosting time, but reviewers report meat thaws in just one to three hours.
A helpful review: “Great product. Works as described. Love the silicon frame with feet. Easy to clean and store - very thin and light, but it works!!! Highly recommend for those times when you forget or need to speed up the thawing process. I was not looking for this - came across it by accident - great find!!"
2. The Best Extra-Large Defrosting Tray
- Dimensions: 8 by 16 inches
For larger households, this extra-large defrosting tray is big enough for five or more servings. This extra-thick aluminum tray with deeper grooves for even faster thawing works quickly, thawing 3 ounces of steak in as little as 10 or 15 minutes or chicken in about 10 minutes, according to reviewers.
Also, this nonstick pick is dishwasher-safe and comes with a drip tray, so cleaning up after use is fast, too. A silicone sponge is also included with the tray for cleaning. One reviewer commented they love how this tray is big enough to thaw a whole fish.
A helpful review: “Worth the money! First, it is the largest defrosting tray I can find on Amazon, even with a drip pan. It’s really great for a big family. [...] It can defrost half dozen large hamburger patties in half an hour without hot water [or a] microwave. Perfect packaging, and great gifts for friends and family.”
3. The Most Affordable Defrosting Tray
- Dimensions: 8.1 by 11.6 inches
Even small kitchens can make room for this small defrosting tray. It's made from aluminum, is both food-safe and dishwasher-safe, has grooves, and is able to hold about to two or three servings. Defrost time takes 30 minutes to an hour, or about 40 minutes for 14 ounces of beef and about 10 minutes per 5 ounces of fish, according to the manufacturer.
It's the smallest and most affordable of the list; keep in mind this tray doesn't have an edge or tray to catch any dripping, but reviewers say they love it because it's lightweight, easy to clean, and sturdy.
A helpful review: “I didn't really expect it to work. My first attempt was with chicken wings that did not defrost enough by the time I was ready to cook them. I put them on the tray and in moments the defrost was complete. Next, I took out ground meat to make meatballs — I put the package on the tray, meat side up for about an hour and meat side down for another hour — I couldn't believe how fast the ground meat defrosted. It's a wonderful item.”
4. The Most Versatile: A Defrosting Tray That’s Also A Cutting Board
- Dimensions: 9.5 by 15.9 inches
If you're someone who loves a 2-in-1 kitchen tool, consider this defrosting tray and cutting board. The food-safe aluminum defrosting side has grooves and fits two to three servings, and reviewers report food thawing in about an hour. Flip the tray for a plastic cutting board on the other side.
This pick features a silicone border for drips, and it's also nonstick, but you'll want to wash this one by hand. And it comes in red, black, or a set of both colors.
A helpful review: “Being able to defrost on one side and then use the cutting board on the other is great. I only need to wash one item rather than two. It is long enough to fit across my double sink, also saving counter space.”