Does That Defrosting Tray Seen on TV Really Save Time?

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During holiday prep time, every minute counts. So I couldn't wait to try Kagan's Rapid Defrosting Tray ($19.95 to $29.99), which promises to thaw frozen food lickety split. Visions of thawing my Thanksgiving turkey in hours, not days, danced through my head.

The tray, an 8x13-inch sheet of aluminum with a nonstick skin, is made by Kagan Unlimited, a Chicago company. Kagan says the tray cuts defrosting time "in half." ups the claim and says the tray "can thaw a frozen steak in just minutes" -- though it doesn't say how many minutes.

So, I tested.

First, I remembered from middle school science class that aluminum is a great conductor that transfers heat to food from the surrounding air much faster than wood or granite or most other countertop materials. So, I laid frozen burger patties and butter sticks on the tray, on a wood cutting board (simulating a countertop), and on an aluminum cookie sheet I've had for 20 years.

I also tested the steak claims, but just compared the defrosting tray to the wooden cutting board because I only had two steaks I wanted to thaw for dinner.

Results in a Nutshell

The Rapid Defrosting Tray does cut thawing time of butter, burgers and steaks by about a quarter, the same as my old aluminum cookie sheet. The tray defrosted the 1-inch steaks in about three hours, compared to four hours on the wood -- not exactly "rapid."

The advantage of the Rapid Defrosting Tray is that it's handsome, smaller and easier to store than a cookie sheet. And, if you're microwave-phobic, the trays lets you thaw food naturally and faster than if it sat on your countertop all afternoon.

Tip: Unwrapped food that can sit flat on the tray will defrost faster than packaged, lumpy food.
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