Which defrosting tray is best?

If you often find yourself in a situation where you want to cook dinner but realize that you forgot to plan and all you have are frozen cuts of meat, a defrosting tray is definitely for you. They cut down on thawing time considerably, so you don’t have to turn to the microwave to defrost your food or settle for take-out.

For the defrosting tray to work efficiently, you have to choose the right size for your needs and use it properly. Otherwise, it may be no better than leaving your food on the counter.

The Cuisinart BBQ Defrosting Tray is the perfect choice for most homes because it offers a good amount of surface space, yet is thin enough that you can easily store it out of the way.

What to know before you buy a defrosting tray

How defrosting trays work

Defrosting trays rely on the principles of thermodynamics. Without getting too technical, the basic concept here is that two objects of different temperatures will eventually become the same temperature if they are in contact with each other. As the temperatures come to an equilibrium, the hotter item will cool down slightly, and the colder item will warm up a bit. An example of this is when you place a cold steak on a hot pan. The pan cools down a little, and the steak heats up.

For defrosting trays to work efficiently, they must use materials that conduct heat quickly, such as aluminum and copper. This is important because it allows the warm parts of the tray to quickly transfer heat to the portions of the tray that have cooled down from contact with the frozen meat. 

How to use a defrosting tray

The most important thing to remember when using a defrosting tray is that it only works if the temperature of the tray remains significantly higher than that of the food you are trying to defrost. To do this, a large portion of the tray’s surface area must be exposed to the air to keep it close to room temperature. If you cover the entire tray with meat, its temperature will drop too much, and it won’t be effective. 

Why use a defrosting tray

Defrosting trays can significantly reduce the amount of time needed to defrost frozen foods. This is very helpful when you haven’t planned ahead and defrosted your meat in the refrigerator overnight. Because they do it quicker than simply leaving the food out on the counter, there is less chance of unhealthy bacteria developing on it. Also, defrosting trays promote even defrosting. You won’t have to worry about part of your meat remaining frozen while other parts defrost. 


Defrosting trays are not difficult to care for, but some can be damaged if placed in the dishwasher. If you don’t want to deal with handwashing, look at the product listing of any defrosting tray to ensure it is dishwasher friendly.

Features to look for in a quality defrosting tray


The most common sizes for defrosting trays are 8 by 11 inches and 8 by 14 inches. However, you can also find them in many other sizes, with the largest usually topping out around 10 by 16 inches. If you only cook for one or two people, a small 8 by 11-inch tray will suffice. If you cook for more people than that, it is best to choose a larger tray. Remember, there needs to be a lot of surface area exposed to the air to work efficiently.


Overwhelmingly, the majority of defrosting trays are aluminum. This material is antibacterial, affordable and easy maintenance. However, if you want to avoid aluminum, you can also find copper models. Copper is more thermally conductive, which means it could potentially defrost foods faster, but it is harder to care for and more prone to scratches.  

Nonstick surface

While sticking is less of an issue when defrosting foods than cooking them, it can still happen. To combat this, many defrosting trays have a nonstick coating. This makes it easier to remove foods when fully defrosted and easier to clean. 

Water drainage and reservoir

When food defrosts, it creates moisture that could easily accumulate under the food, thereby slowing the defrosting process or leaking off the tray onto your counter. To avoid this, consider a model featuring channels for water flow and a reservoir to contain the water. 

How much can you expect to spend on a defrosting tray

The majority of defrosting trays cost from $15-$30. Some high-end models may be more decorative, made with premium materials, or come from expensive brands that can cost up to $100.

Defrosting tray FAQ

How much faster does a defrosting tray actually thaw food than leaving it on the counter?

A. While it is hard to accurately quantify exactly how much faster a defrosting tray thaws foods, some manufacturers claim they can reduce thawing time by as much as 60%. They will be more effective at lowering thawing time on thin cuts of meat than on very thick ones.

Is it better to use a defrosting tray or defrost in the refrigerator?

A. Defrosting food overnight in the refrigerator is considered the safest method and the best for preserving the integrity of the food. However, this is often unfeasible unless you have planned ahead and allotted the proper amount of time. A defrosting tray is often the next best option.

What is the best defrosting tray to buy?

Top defrosting tray

Cuisinart BBQ Defrosting Tray

Cuisinart BBQ Defrosting Tray

What you need to know: This tray comes from a well-respected kitchen equipment manufacturer and has a thin design that makes it easy to store.

What you’ll love: Its lightweight construction makes it easy to move about the kitchen as needed, and the deep grooves ensure that moisture drains away from your food rather than collecting under it.

What you should consider: It isn’t dishwasher safe.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top defrosting tray for the money

Evelots Meat Defrosting Tray

Evelots Meat Defrosting Tray

What you need to know: A large and affordably priced option, the Evelots Meat Defrosting Tray is the ideal choice for families on a tight budget.

What you’ll love: It is dishwasher safe and has a large surface area to accommodate several cuts of meat.

What you should consider: The overly thin construction makes it feel a little flimsy.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

CQ Essentials Defrosting Tray Set

CQ Essentials Defrosting Tray Set

What you need to know: A set of two trays of different sizes, this is a smart pick for people who cook often and sometimes need to defrost a lot of meat quickly.

What you’ll love: Its silicone corner supports not only look great but ensure it stays firmly in place on the counter.

What you should consider: The feet tend to fall off easily.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.