Updated October 2021
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

Category cover

Buying guide for best defrosting trays

Nobody likes to get home from a long day of work and realize that you forgot to take the frozen steaks or chicken breasts out of the freezer to defrost for dinner. With a defrosting tray, you won’t have to order takeout the next time you make that mistake. Instead, you’ll be able to defrost any frozen food in about half the time it usually takes and then get dinner on the table as quickly as possible.

Choosing the right defrosting tray is key. That means deciding on the size, material, and other features that will work best for your food prep needs. 

Content Image
Defrosting trays typically work best with flat foods. For example, a steak usually thaws more easily than a drumstick.

Benefits of using a defrosting tray

Defrosting trays are made of a material that offers high thermal conductivity, which means that it helps bring the temperature of the food (or other item) it comes in contact with closer to the material’s temperature. When you place a piece of frozen meat on a defrosting tray, heat from the tray is transferred to the food. The temperature of the food increases, while the temperature of the tray decreases. Because of the tray’s contact with the air, it stays relatively close to room temperature, so it’s able to continue bringing up the temperature of the food.

There are several benefits to having a defrosting tray in your kitchen:

Defrosts safely and quickly: In many cases, a defrosting tray can reduce the thawing time for frozen foods by half or more. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about bacteria developing because the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists defrosting trays as a safe way to thaw food.

Thaws food uniformly: You don’t have to worry about some parts of your steak, chicken, or pork chop remaining frozen while other areas fully defrost because the tray helps all parts of the food thaw at the same rate.

Defrosts without using the microwave: While you can defrost food quickly in a microwave, some people are uncomfortable with the hazards posed by microwave use. A defrosting tray allows you to quickly thaw your food without turning on the microwave.

Stores easily: A defrosting tray is a fairly slim, flat tool, so you can easily find a spot for it in your cabinet.

Defrosting tray features to consider

Size: Most defrosting trays are roughly the same size, approximately 11 inches by 8 inches, which is generally large enough to defrost two or three steaks. It’s a good option if you usually cook for one or two people. The largest defrosting trays are 14 inches by 8 inches, which is big enough to defrost three to five steaks, making it a better option if you have a larger family.

Material: Many defrosting trays are made of aluminum because it’s an effective and efficient conductor of heat. Aluminum is able to pull heat from the air and transfer it to the food, so food thaws eight to ten times faster than it normally would. For the quickest, safest thawing, choose a defrosting tray that’s made with antimicrobial, food-grade aluminum, or aluminum alloy.

Some higher-end defrosting trays are made of copper, which conducts heat even more effectively than aluminum. But copper scratches easily and is more difficult to clean, so it’s often coated with aluminum for easier maintenance.

Nonstick: When meat and other foods thaw, moisture (condensation) develops. Combined with the colder temperature of the food, it can cause the food to stick to the tray’s metal surface. This can make it difficult to remove the meat once it’s fully thawed. Many defrosting trays are treated with a nonstick coating to make it easier to remove your defrosted steak, chicken, or other food from the surface.

Water reservoir: As food thaws on a defrosting tray, it produces moisture that can quickly accumulate on the surface. The liquid can easily overflow off a flat tray and spread harmful bacteria across your kitchen counter, which must be carefully cleaned up. Some models feature a built-in water box to collect the water, so you can easily dispose of it once the food is fully thawed.

Maintenance: Some defrosting trays must be washed by hand, particularly those with a nonstick surface. That’s because the surface can be easily scratched in the dishwasher. But there are many models that are dishwasher safe. If you want a low-maintenance tray, make sure the tray you choose can go in the dishwasher.

Content Image
Spoiled meat can’t be made safe by cooking. If your food has been in the danger zone between 40°F to 140°F for two hours or more, discard it immediately.

Defrosting tray prices

Defrosting trays vary in price based on size and material. In general, you can expect to spend between $7 and $60.

Inexpensive: Small defrosting trays made of aluminum range from $7 to $15.

Mid-range: Midsize defrosting trays made of aluminum alloy or small defrosting trays made of copper range from $15 to $30.

Expensive: Large defrosting trays made of aluminum alloy or midsize to large trays made of copper range from $30 to $60.


  • Leave frozen food in a plastic bag to thaw. When you thaw food on a defrosting tray, you can leave it in a plastic bag if you prefer. Wetter foods can make a mess if you let them defrost uncovered. Food that comes on a foam tray should be removed from the packaging.

  • Use two trays for even faster defrosting. If you need to defrost your food more quickly, place a second defrosting tray on top of your meat with the defrosting surface touching the food.

  • Put paper towels under the tray. If your defrosting tray doesn’t have a water reservoir to catch moisture from the food as it thaws, place some paper towels beneath the tray to soak up the excess liquid.

  • Warm the tray to restore its effectiveness. If you need to defrost food in batches and the defrosting tray is getting too cold to work effectively, run it under some warm water for a minute or two between batches.
Content Image
Cut down on defrosting time by rinsing frozen foods to remove any frost before placing them on the tray.


Q. Is it safe to use a defrosting tray to thaw meat?

A. If used properly, the USDA does recommend a defrosting tray as a safe method for thawing frozen meat. However, it’s important to remember that it isn’t safe to let meat stay in the dangerous temperature zone of 40°F to 140°F for more than two hours. While a defrosting tray can usually defrost a standard size piece of meat in that time, it might take longer for larger pieces, such as a whole chicken or a particularly thick steak. To be safe, those items should be defrosted using another method.

Q. Why is using a defrosting tray better than thawing food in the refrigerator?

A. Defrosting food in the refrigerator is an effective method, but it can take a great deal of time to thaw a piece of meat that way. That’s because the refrigerator increases the temperature of frozen food very gradually, so it might take a full day to defrost even smaller cuts of meat. With a defrosting tray, you can usually thaw food in 40 minutes to an hour and a half, drastically reducing your defrosting time.

Q. Can a defrosting tray double as a cutting board?

A. All defrosting trays are made of either aluminum or copper, which are relatively soft metals. Using a knife to cut on the tray could scratch and damage the surface and affect its performance. Use a dedicated cutting board to cut your meat once it’s defrosted.

Our Top Picks