Before you remove a pack of pork chops from the freezer, have a thawing strategy in mind. The method you choose has a direct impact on the food and its safety. While some thawing methods maintain the integrity of the meat for several days, others may only give you a few hours before the pork chops are no longer safe to eat.
In the Refrigerator
The safest way to thaw pork chops is in the refrigerator. Temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit keep bacteria growth slow, so thawed chops stay edible for three to five days before you cook them. Take the pork chops from the freezer and put them in the refrigerator. A 1-inch-thick pork chop takes approximately 12 to 14 hours to thaw in the refrigerator.
Thawing in cold water is faster than thawing in the refrigerator -- taking approximately one hour per 1 pound of meat -- and just as safe as long as you follow some precautions. The pork chops must be in a leak-proof package so bacteria cannot enter. Also, the cold water must be changed every 30 minutes. When using the cold water method, cook the pork chops as soon as they're thawed.
Microwaving does not kill bacteria growing on the meat. As the pork chops thaw in the microwave, the meat becomes warm and some areas may begin to cook -- a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Because the pork chops are only partially cooked during the microwave thawing process, the pork chops cannot go in the refrigerator afterward. Cook the pork chops immediately after you thawed them in a microwave. Always cook pork to an internal temperature of at least 145 F.
A Word of Caution
Never thaw frozen foods on the counter. Plopping a package of frozen pork chops on the counter to thaw puts you at risk for food borne illness. As the pork chops thaw, bacteria that was present on the pork at the time of freezing becomes active when the pork's temperature rises above 40 F. Under these conditions the bacteria rapidly multiply and reach dangerous levels, rendering the thawed pork chops unsafe to eat.