Almost all ships in the world usually only buy frozen meat and fish for obvious reasons, (although I did visit a vessel recently that bought fresh and frozen meat), Frozen meat and fish has to be defrosted in a safe and hygienic manner. Meat and fish will take many hours and even days to defrost if the joints are large. During this defrosting period we need to ensure that food being defrosted is kept safe from any form of contamination or harm.
All meats and fish must be defrosted slowly in a controlled environment such as a fridge or a chilled holding room, the defrosting of foods should never be accelerated by leaving items in a warm environment, although it is a common practice defrosting in ambient temperature conditions or by soaking in water, is not ideal as this may compromise our rule on keeping food out of the Danger Zone between 10ºC and 63ºC. The other down side to defrosting outside of refrigerated space, is the possibility of physical or chemical contamination or even pests such as fly’s. It is also a sad fact that some ships in the world are prone to infestations such as Cockroaches, especially in tropical areas, so meat and fish always need to be covered and protected during the defrosting period.
It is important that defrosting is well planned in advance so the defrosting is carried out over several days. A 15kg leg of pork may take up to 5 days to fully defrost in a fridge at +4ºC, where as a fillet of fish may defrost overnight at the same temperature. So there is a need to study your menus over the coming days so that you take the items you need from the freezer at the appropriate time to allow addiquate defrosting.
A common problem I come across in the industry is that there is almost never enough space in a refrigerated space to defrost slowly, this means defrosting is often compromised by having to defrost in a cool part of the store room. Storing any food on the deck is prohibited.
Naval architects and designers never seem to give any consideration to the need for safe controlled space for defrosting of food in keeping with modern day requirements and the standards that today’s caterers need to work to. The design and layout of a ships galley and the provisions rooms is always well down the list of priorities when designing a ship, unless it is s cruise ship or passenger ferry. The provision for food on vessels with paying passengers can be a substantial form of revenue and represents the core business, so the catering facilities are a higher priority. On working functional ship such as a cargo ship, tanker or offshore vessel there is not the same level of interest in the catering facilities, the galley and messroom are only there to provided food to sustain the crew and workers on-board.
In such situations where defrosting space may be compromised, as professional Chefs we must ensure that we use our knowledge and experience to overcome any shortfall in design and demonstrate due diligence to ensure that the integrity of the food is preserved during the defrosting process.
Meats and fish should be defrosted in covered containers with drip trays inserted so that the blood and liquids drain away from the meat or fish, the food should not be sitting in the defrosting liquids.
Some foods should be used straight from frozen, eg, Vegetables and certain types of pre-prepared frozen processed foods, but these are the exception to the rule.
Always ensure that foods that require defrosting are fully defrosted before cooking and always check the temperature during cooking to see that foods are sufficiently cooked right through to the core, and we will look at this in more detail in a related artical;- Minimum Core Temperatures.
Defrosting Check List
- Check the Menus to see what food is required in the coming days
- Remove items from the freezer, unpack and transfer to suitable defrosting containers with drip trays.
- Place in a fridge or cool space and allow adequate time to defrost
- Always defrost on the bottom shelf of a fridge space to ensure no blood or juices can cause contamination through spillages.
- When defrosted prepare and cook as soon as possible
- Ensure all defrosting containers are cleaned, sanitized and allowed to dry.
Minimum Core Temperatures