When you think of “slacking,” the actions of a certain co-worker may come to mind.
But slacking has another meaning, and chance are, you have likely slacked a time or two if you work in foodservice.
This article explains everything you need to know about slacking food, including how to do it and how it differs from thawing.
What is the process of slacking?
When it comes to food, slacking refers to the process of raising the temperature of frozen food in preparation for cooking.
With slacking, the food remains frozen, but the temperature, for example, may increase from -10°F to 25ºF (23°C to -4°C) (1).
This increase in temperature makes it quicker to deep-fat fry food and allow for more even heat penetration during the cooking process.
You can slack food under any temperature as long as the temperature is cold enough to keep the food frozen, but ideally under refrigeration at 41°F (5°C) or less.
Commonly slacked foods include:
- beef patties
- french fries
- chicken strips
- cheese sticks
Some foods like beef patties and french fries can go directly from the freezer to the grill, and some types of frozen chicken can go directly into the deep fryer.
Other items must be pulled from the freezer to the refrigerator several days in advance.
You should cook all food slacked to a safe internal temperature and served following the slacking.
Slacked foods should not be returned to the freezer as variations in temperature caused by slacking and refreezing can negatively affect food quality and increase the risk of bacterial growth or contamination, and consequently, foodborne illnesses.
For this reason, it’s best to forecast demand for a particular food item to avoid excess waste.
Slacking is the process of increasing the temperature of frozen food — usually under refrigeration — to a still frozen temperature to cook food quicker and allow more even heat penetration.
Slacking vs. thawing
While slacking and thawing are commonly used interchangeable, they are not the same.
The internal temperature of slacked food never exceeds 32ºF (0°C) — it remains frozen, just less frozen.
Conversely, food that you thaw can reach above freezing to 41°F (5°C) — the lower end of the temperature danger zone.
- Thaw in a cooler at 41ºF (5ºC). This takes planning as large items like a roast can take several days to thaw.
- Thaw under running water at 70ºF (21ºC) or lower. Use a clean, sanitized sink, and never use warmer water as doing so can quickly bring parts of the food to the temperature zone.
- Thaw in a microwave at 50% power. Only use a microwave if you plan to cook it — but not in the microwave — immediately after thawing.
Of these methods, thawing in refrigerator tends to be the most common technique.
Slacking raises a food’s temperature but it remains frozen, whereas thawing can increase a food’s temperature above freezing to the lower end of the temperature danger zone.
The bottom line
Slacking food is the process of raising the temperature — usually under refrigeration — so it is less frozen to speed up cooking time and allow for more even heat distribution.
Some foods like beef patties, french fries, and chicken can go directly from the freezer to the grill or deep fryer.
Slacking keeps food frozen — just less frozen — while thawing can increase the temperature of food above freezing to the lower end of the temperature danger zone.
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