Defrosting beef safely entails keeping food out of the "danger zone" -- the temperature gradient between 4.44 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Celsius -- and not exposing it to room temperature for more than two hours. Although food can be thawed using a microwave or cold water, using a refrigerator allows it to defrost evenly, albeit more slowly. Only refreeze raw beef thawed in the refrigerator.
Thaw frozen beef in the refrigerator. Ideally, place the frozen beef on a cooling rack placed on a sheet pan lined with paper towels. The rack prevents the meat from sitting in its own liquid while defrosting. Alternatively, place the frozen beef on a large plate lined with paper towels. Always place thawing protein on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Allow five hours of thawing time for every pound of frozen beef.
Thaw frozen beef in cold water. Place the beef in an airtight, sealable food storage bag to prevent the introduction of bacteria. Place the beef in cold tap water. Change the water and rinse the package every 30 minutes. Allow approximately one hour of defrosting time for every pound of beef. Do not refreeze raw beef previously-thawed using the cold water method.
Thaw frozen beef in the microwave. Microwave ovens vary in power, so use the manufacturer's recommended settings for defrosting beef. Microwaves distribute heat unevenly, prompting some areas of the beef to thaw faster than others. Cook beef thawed in the microwave immediately afterward to prevent bacterial growth.