Disturbing technology: the defrost-o-plate

A few years ago, my dad bought a mad thing from JML (they advertise on TV and their slogan should be “we sell weird shit for your house”). I dubbed it the defrost-o-plate: it claimed to defrost food in record time, without heat. Bollocks! I cried. My dad showed me it in action. I bought one for myself.

My defrost-o-plate (I’ve no idea what it’s officially called) is a rectangular metal tray, painted matt black, with a half-dozen grooves in it (although as the photo shows, there are other designs out there). You don’t need to heat it up, it has no power source, it doesn’t seem to be made of anything unusual, and it is clearly of human origin: the feet fell off within days. And I have absolutely no idea how it works.

I tried an experiment: I got two ice cubes and put one on the defrost-o-plate, with the second ice cube on a normal plate. After half a minute, the normal-plate ice cube was starting to look a bit shiny; the defrost-o-plate cube was a puddle of water. If I leave a couple of steaks out to defrost, they take a few hours; on the defrost-o-plate, half an hour.

Naturally, I think it’s a great thing – but my complete inability to work out how it does its magic is driving me daft. There are lots of sites offering defrost-o-plates on the net, such as this one, but nobody tells you how it actually works. So I’d like to turn this over to you, as you’re all much smarter than me. How can a bit of metal perform such magic? Is there a scientific explanation, or is it witchcraft?

//update, December 2012

Thanks to Ken Kimberling, we’ve tracked the super magic defrost-o-plate down – the one I’ve got is here on Amazon.

//update, February 2013

Thanks to Greg Gann, who’s sent me some more product links. He says:

I’ve read your page (numerous of times) and there are a variety of different thawing trays out there. There were the thin ones (I think most people see) that sold for $20. And there was the “Thaw Master” which was thicker, sold my Mr. Food, and they sold for $40.

I noticed some of the people commenting on your post were looking for some, and I’ve came across the thicker, faster, Mr. Food trays and have them for sell at the same price of the thinner ones…$20! (50% off!)

I have silver ones here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221161604053?ssPageName=STRK:MESOX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1559.l2649

There is no difference in the colors, it’s a matter of the material. Therefore the thick ones work faster because of the thicker material.

139 thoughts on “Disturbing technology: the defrost-o-plate

  1. David says:

    I would guess that it is because it has a defrosting mesh plate made from aluminum laminae processed into a plate with a plurality of polygonal meshes, appearing like a honeycomb. The meshes effectively enlarge the heat exchange surface and, working in cooperation with the aluminum laminae of good heat conductivity, speed up defrosting. The meshes also promote air circulation to allow hot air reach the food on the defrosting mesh plate from all directions to prevent dead spots. The water drops formed during defrosting may also flow through the meshes into the tray below.

  2. David says:

    Is it not essentially a heatsink? They are extremely good heat conductors. You put something cold on them in a warm environment and they’ll try and equalise the temperature by taking heat from the air and moving it to the cold bit.

    Exactly the opposite of a processor heatsink, which moves the heat from the processor and disapates it into the cooler air. Both rely on very high conductivity and a large surface area.

    I might have made all that up though.

  3. Gary says:

    > I would guess that

    I was with you until “that”. I got a bit lost afterwards.

    > Is it not essentially a heatsink?

    I DON’T KNOW!!!!! ;-)

  4. David says:

    OK, so the first one was pasted from the US patents site. ;-)

    >>I DON’T KNOW!!!!!

    When I said “is it not…?” I should’ve just said “it is”. Cos it is.

  5. Gary says:

    I got mine in Makro, which makes me think that any place that sells mad stuff that you’ve seen on TV is a good place – cash and carries, woolworths, homebase, those kinds of places (if you’re in the UK. If you’re in the US, I’m not sure…)

  6. Matthew says:

    It’s a physical heat sink. Aluminum is a great thermal conductor — particularly aluminum that is painted black. Those “grooves” increase the surface area of whatever is being de-frosted, accelerating the heat transfer.

    Keep it in a warm place and will work even better…

  7. Andy says:

    I stumbled on you blog while I was searching for a cooling surface for my Mac Mini. This is exactly what I am looking for.

    I am guessing that it had embedded heat pipe in the plate. The heat pipe can instantaneously transfer heat/cold from one point of contact through out the whole body of the heat pipe which spread to the whole plate much quicker than normal heat transfer through the metal. Many of the computer processor heat sinks use heat pipe. You can search on heat pipe to find out how it work. It’s a really old physical discovery but it’s almost like magic.

  8. Anna says:

    Pleeeeeease let me know where to buy one of these in the US, specifically Atlanta, Georgia. I have been trying to find this product for a long time. Thank you in advance, somebody.

  9. Digital.Diablo says:

    I’m able to produce similar effects from an old CPU heatsink – stick a pack of bacon on top and it 1/2’s the defrost time. Doing a bit of experimenting it does what you’d expect, the heat rises into the product, the cold ‘drops’ out of the product. Seems like this gadget is an enhanced version of it. Might have to get one!

  10. Karen says:

    I use to have one of these. I gave it to my son who left it at one of his apts. I am trying to find out where to get another one. Do you have any ideas of where I can find one?

  11. Jose Hernandez says:

    I was looking for this thing also and I googled “defrost plate” and bingo, plenty of sites to buy it from. Kind of expensive though. I found this site too.

  12. Anonymous says:

    i remember the commercial for these in the us around late 80’s early 90’s i think they are cheap superconductive sheets been searching wiki for more but nothing yet… bullocks

  13. Karen says:

    I have a something like this and would love to get another one, but for the life of me I have no cluse where to get one. Any ideas?

  14. mupwangle says:

    Kleeneze (www.kleeneze.com) still do them. £10. JML don’t appear to any more. (With Woolies gone bust and Wilkinsons laying off lots of people, the future don’t look too bright for those nutters.)

    I’ve heard that you can defrost stuff quite quickly using a george forman grill when it’s switched off – they’re made of aluminium so you get the heat transfer thing. Not as quick though, but it’s meant to be quicker than normal.

    This is the 2nd link when you search for defrost plate. That’s really sad.

  15. Gary says:

    Don’t write off JML just yet. They’re stocked by Asda and Homebase.

    > This is the 2nd link when you search for defrost plate. That’s really sad

    At last, an achievement I can be proud of!

  16. tm says:

    yeah, never count out JML – I stumble across their stuff in all sorts of shops when I’m least expecting it. I’m just never sure who actually buys a specialised brush for dusting round corners.

    >At last, an achievement I can be proud of!

    Apparently the UK Department For Transport has about the top 50 links for “Stupendously Incompetent”. As a regular train user this is no surprise to me…

  17. tm says:

    Oh and BTW is 4 years the record time between a post and active debate being continued on it (as opposed to the odd spam post) on your site Gary?

  18. Gary says:

    I think it may be. Although that’s nothing compared to the gap between me receiving emails and actually replying to them atm.

  19. mupwangle says:

    >>I just went and Googled “stupendously incompetent”

    Yeah, I did too. Not that I didn’t believe Tom, It’s just that he said “apparently” so I needed to be sure.

  20. sarah says:

    Just so all of you know…you don’t need to go out and buy one of these things. You can turn your frying pan over and use the bottom of it as the same effect.

  21. mupwangle says:

    For it to be as effective, your frying pan would probably have to be about 5 feet wide. In theory it’s true, as a frying pan has a heat-conductive surface so you do get the same effect, but the whole point is about surface area. The surface area of one of these things is really disproportionately large and a frying pan isn’t. In theory a ridged frying pan should work better than a normal one although not by much.

  22. tm says:

    >disproportionately large and a frying pan isn’t.

    But if you bought it from anything but the bargain basement or more than about 10 years ago, your frying pans base is probably covered with special heat distributing rings and spots all of which are highly an evenly conductive to heat. What effect do they have?

  23. mupwangle says:

    I didn’t say it wouldn’t work – it just wouldn’t be as freakishly fast. Anything that improves the heat disapation would make it defrost quicker.

  24. mupwangle says:

    Mind you, the FTC in the states reckons that you shouldn’t defrost anything at room temperature anyway as you increase the chances of food poisoning.

  25. Squander Two says:

    Yeah, but they also reckon you shouldn’t eat decent cheese. (Mark Steyn once therefore referred to Americans as “cheese-surrendering eating monkeys”.)

  26. Carl says:

    I own one of these plates and have always been fascinated by it. My theory is that the metal tries to remain at room temperature (or it’s natural temperature) and when you add an extreme temperature to it, it tries harder to get back to its natural state, which creates a friction that would in effect, heat up the frozen object.

  27. Carl says:

    Oh, and it’s probably important that the frozen object isn’t a constant. It would offer less resistance.

  28. Squander Two says:

    The idea that physics involves things trying to get back to their natural state was the Ancient Greeks’. It was one of things they were wrong about.

  29. tm says:

    >It was one of things they were wrong about.

    of course. But in this case things are attempting to get to an equilibrium with their environment (i.e. at the same temperature as its surroundings thus minimizing the amount of heat exchanged between them) which could naively be described as its “natural state”.

  30. Squander Two says:

    Yeah, but I don’t think that’s what Carl’s saying. If you remove the incorrect terminology and try to get to the essence of his theory, it appears to be that the metal actually generates heat — not just gives off, but generates — as a result of cooling.

  31. mike says:

    I used to have one of those and it works. Not sure how but I want another one. can anytone tell me how to get one? I did the ice cube experiment and it works. It can defrost a steak in 10-15 minutes without cooking part of it like in a microwave.

  32. Shelly says:

    This product was called Miracle Thaw and is hard to find in it’s orignal form…however you can find the “new and improved product” by googling…Miracle Thaw…..it works just as well

  33. tm says:

    One day Gary, when you write/blog/transmit direct into our brains your memoirs the unfeasibly long lasting defrost-o-plate thread is surely going to warrant a chapter by itself…

  34. Gary says:

    When I die, I’ll be able to say that I created a thread that enabled people to find the right defrosting solution for their steaks. I think that’s a pretty good legacy. Gordon Brown would kill for a legacy like that.

  35. GillKaye says:

    I’ve spent so long happily reading this, and discussing heatsinks etc etc with the motley assembly of people here, with their varied knowledge of Physics, that the mini-chicken-fillets have defrosted all on their own ……..

  36. GillKaye says:

    (I wrote ‘ten’ in the human slot, and upset the finer aspects of the site … SORRY!)

    I’m going to bed now, night all xxx

  37. Gary says:

    > the mini-chicken-fillets have defrosted all on their own

    OH MY GOD! YOU HAVE DISCOVERED SPONTANEOUS DEFROSTING!

    It’s not as dramatic as spontaneous combustion, I’ll admit.

  38. Anonymous says:

    the plate is a slab of steel which absorbs heat from the air. (metal is a very good conductor of heat, and air is about the worst.)

  39. tm says:

    >the plate is a slab of steel which absorbs heat from the air. (metal is a very good conductor of heat, and air is about the worst.)

    yes, but that’s true for any bit of metal, and as we pointed out before this idea works with any bit of metal juts not as well (I believe frying pans was the example we used). I know it’s a long thread, but please try to keep up…

    And I too expect it was something other than steel tool – if only because steel is really quite heavy for use around the kitchen for more than cutlery. More likely something like aluminium as David says.

  40. tm says:

    >absorbs heat from the air

    Actually, before someone else jumps on it, that is really nonsense – but I can’t be bothered with a physics argument. Suffice it to say most pieces of readily available metal would work to some extent.

  41. Dave The Rave says:

    The reason it works so well are as follows:

    1) (As already pointed out) it uses a metallic substrate. Most use Aluminium as it’s a good thermo conductor. That’s why electronic component heat sinks are made if it; better ones are copper based, but cost loads more.

    2) The groves in the design increase the surface area of the material thus exposing more of it to the air and increasing it’s efficiency.

    3) (And this is the nice bit) JML have used a black (again because black is a better thermo-radiator, better that the white used to paint your radiators with at home) ‘super-thermo conductor’ apparently the same stuff as used by NASA et al., to cover the base metal.

    I found this article as I wanted to get hold of a tin of the stuff to paint some heat-sinks with…

    I hope this helps.

    BTW: I use my JML Defrost-O-Matic what-ever-it’s-called as a laptop cooler too. Just sit the laptop ontop of it and it keeps things at just the right temperature!

    Lots of love,

    Dave xxx

  42. benjiboy says:

    any body ever wonder how planes keep from forming ice?

    the answer is aluminum.
    especially when treated with a finishing agent.

    same thing that melts your ice or frozen chicken.

  43. mupwangle says:

    My chicken is rarely defrosted by planes.

    Why would I want my ice defrosted? Surely I would just buy water? I suppose if I wanted to store it for a very long time and had no access to big plastic bottles. Or if I wanted to transport my ice somewhere and had no refrigeration equipment.

  44. Stephen says:

    Actually planes are kept ice-free by big de-icers that spray the wings before take-off; aluminium no less susceptible to ice than any other metal.

  45. Metal says:

    I honestly am going to suggest this is some form of Witchcraft…

    These things are manufactured far away in a small African village where teams of witch doctors are lined up in an assembly line and spray their voodoo juices using chicken’s feet on the metal as it goes past them on the assembly line before being packed in a box and shipped to the developed world… :| scary but its true!

    (Great post by the way!)

  46. the bishop says:

    the plate is made from “krakiti” a rare type of metal found only at the base of the krak tree in rhyll north wales.j.m.l the popular pop group discovered it while looking for their lost budgie in 2007 duing a cub outing.they coated it with black dulux silk and now market it as “magic defrost” avail in all good stores

  47. Gary says:

    Peter, they appear to be rarer than hens’ teeth these days, so ebay’s probably your best bet. alternatively, you could just look for an aluminium pan – that works too.

  48. Debbie E. says:

    I have had one of these black defrosters for a long time and LOVE it. In fact, the way I found this site is trying to locate more for gifts. Don’t know the name or what it is made of but I don’t care. It does work.

  49. drfoxx says:

    I own one of these! It’s called the ‘Thaw Master TM’
    It is made from Aluminum then they anodized it which is an electrolytic process. It works so well. I have had mine for more than 10 years. Doesn’t look like anyone sells this product online but you can contact the company here
    CONTACT: Workforce Systems Corp., Alcoa

    Ella Chesnutt, 615/681-6034

    or

    Greenstone Roberts Investor Relations

    Group, Coconut Creek, Fla.

    Rob Bleckman, 305/975-3500

  50. Drewble says:

    You can get one of these from Kleenezee ! We just did and I am confused, Ice cubes dont melt that fast. So unless there is a very very small person wriggling about inside with a blowtorch, then despite what Scotty from Startrek says “Ye can change the laws o physics Captain! Freezy stuff just melty melts on this mind achingly weird plate!

  51. MIMI says:

    Is it completely safe…doesn’t alter ANYTHING about the food at all. Love this blog, funny stuff, but hey I am serious about the question. Would love to know.

  52. galvar2011 says:

    HELLO MY NAME IS GLORIA I USE TO HAVE ONE OF THESE BLACK RECTANGULAR DEFROSTING PLATE WHICH ONLY COST $5.00 AND IT WORKED GREAT!!! I USE TO GET HOME LATE FROM WORK GRAB A LARGE PACKAGE OF MEAT OR A WHOLE CHICKEN DIRECTLY OUT OF THE FREEZER PLACE IT ON THIS PLATE & THE WHOLE THING WOULD BE TOTALLY DEFTOSTED WITHIN 6-10MINS. I WOULD LIKE TO ORDER SOME MORE OF THESE DEFROSTING PLATES…PLEASE TELL ME HOW I CAN ORDER MORE!!
    GLORIA ALVARADO
    EMAIL: galvar2011@gmail.com

  53. shinythings says:

    There is also a thing known as tolerance. Learn it. …I realize reading something in all caps on the internet feels like someone is shouting at an above normal volume at you, but it seems like internet anonymity compels us to berate people every chance we get for even the smallest of things. Pick your battles better. (Sorry for the derail.)

  54. mupwangle says:

    >>There is also a thing known as tolerance. Learn it.

    Exactly how was my comment intolerant? Possibly a little sarcastic, I’ll admit, but simply stating a fact.

    >>but it seems like internet anonymity compels us to berate people every chance we get for even the smallest of things. Pick your battles better.

    Pot kettle black moment, methinks.

  55. Gary says:

    Shinythings, mupwangle, I’ve just checked whether the internet needs any extra bickering about caps lock, and the answer appears to be “no”.

  56. Ronny says:

    Hi,Mabe we can get back to the black metal object? it can be used to save power!if you think ahead and put your frozen chicken legs on the defroster in the fridge.

  57. Mupwangle says:

    If you put your frozen chicken legs on the plate and put it in the freezer it breaks the laws of thermodynamics, which probably invalidates the warranty on the freezer.

  58. colin says:

    The commenters need to heed the words of the Bishop cica 2010 and succumb to his graceful knowledge and wisdom,in particular,the bit about Prestatyn.

  59. don says:

    order direct and I’ll send once paid via paypal, a little added for postage. Taking advanced orders for ice treads – beat the snow £9.95 + £1.99

  60. TooManyJens says:

    Found you when doing a google search on “thaw plate” to figure out how this thing works. Just thought I’d comment to bring the thread into 2012!

  61. jennybeverley1@googlemail.com says:

    Been using one for 15 years bought from Weekend newspaper been looking for ages to track one down for a friend and have now found this site . I use mine most days . I do not have to decide in morning what to eat can decide later without having the risk of partially cooking in a microwave . Would be lost without it .

  62. gary says:

    “That is after all what was conspicuously missing from the first one.”

    I’m surprised more reviewers haven’t picked up on that.

  63. mupwangle says:

    See if Amazon will release an aluminium version of the kindle that you can turn over and put meat on.

  64. sparky says:

    Ok. I just did some research to see if it would be a viable business. Conclusion-No. The plates/trays everyone has are made by a manufacturer in Taiwan and once you buy one, unlikely there will be a repeat purchase(market saturation. BTW, The coating used used is FDA approved(should be)Black powder coat. You can even get it in Teflon.
    Thanks and happy thawing!

  65. Squander Two says:

    How about “Coffin Dodgers” branded Defrostoplates? Or just find out the correct brand name and contact the manufacturer asking them how much it’s worth to mention it repeatedly by name.

  66. tm says:

    You know, I just realised – the defrosto plate thread has been part of my life for longer than any one job I’ve had, or any one relationship with a woman I’ve had.

    Brings a tear to my eye…

  67. lil'angel says:

    OK..so it’s spring break and here I am cleaning out my kitchen cabinets and I find one of these trays still new but the box looks very old fashion.I googled it “INSTANT THAW”and can’t find it.Have no idea where it came from…probably a yard sale somtime way back or somebody moved and gave it to me..who knows and at the moment who cares.I put a frozen pork roast on it about 20 min. ago and OMG !!!! IT’S WORKING ITS MAGIC !!! The meat is already softening through ! OK..so this voodoo thing..do you really think…HMMMMM…

  68. mupwangle says:

    Isn’t spring break when people go out and wave their bits at other people rather than sort out their cupboards?

    We’ve pretty much worked out that it’s physics rather than voodoo though. Voodoo has too much in the way of zombies to really make you feel like eating meat. Unless, of course, you really like brains.

  69. Gary says:

    I think if it used voodoo you’d be able to defrost *other people’s food* from a great distance.

  70. random guy says:

    So I was in physics class the other day and my professor was explaining black body radiation along with a whole mess of stuff about light. Along with all the boring stuff, he started talking about how he had bought this matte black plate used for defrosting. He also explained it to us all.

    Essentially, the color black, is a perfect absorber and distributor of energy. All the energy it absorbs, it releases back out. So when you place your steak upon the tray, all the ambient light is absorbed by the tray, and transferred back out to the steak, heating it up rather quickly unlike say, placing the steak on a white plate, in which case light, thus energy, isn’t absorbed as well nor redistributed as much.

    There’s your explanation, I hope it was adequate enough for you. Oh, and your link is dead too by the way.

  71. mupwangle says:

    A couple of flaws in that theory –

    1) Not all defrosting plates are black.
    2) It still works in the dark.
    3) Surely there’s a big difference between blackbody materials and stuff which looks black? (Although true blackbody materials don’t exist) There are materials referred to as blackbody (as they are the closest real-world version) which are used in applications such as stealth due to their absorbtion of radar emissions. If this is the case then there are serious implications for national security. If the enemy knew that you could completely evade detection using only a defrost-o-plate then we are in serious trouble!

    The link doesn’t work as this article is from 7 years ago. Or possibly that they’re using a defrost-o-plate to make the site invisible.

  72. tm says:

    >A couple of flaws in that theory

    That, and you know that the name “blackbody” is figurative because it absorbs whatever you put into it. In the same way as a black hole isn’t actually black, it’s invisible because nothing that lets you actually “see” it gets out.

    An open second-floor window is a perfect black-body in terms of stuff you throw out of it. (unless your neighbours are so offended they start chucking it back – in which case you need to drop the physics and deal with real life stuff).

  73. Dan from Aus says:

    Its made from the same sort of stuff that goes on the nose of the space shuttle as I understand it, and conducts heat away very quickly, or in this case, conducts heat to the frozen food very quickly, bringing it to room temperature.

    You’ll see similar results if you use a copper plate, except this material has a much higher thermal coefficient, which means it conducts well AND takes a lot of energy to change its temperature, i believe.

    Or i may be talking out of my ass.

  74. Rick says:

    Defrosting plates make marvelous laptop coolers.

    That’s why heatsinks (cheap ones anyway) are made of aluminium.

    BTW I spelled it aluminium to annoy and confuse, but the British think its just fine.

  75. Rick says:

    The shuttle nose is covered with a type of spun glass block that is an incredible heat insulator. The intent there is just the opposite, to keep heat from migrating to the shuttle structure itself. The blocks get so hot they glow, but you can still pick them up by the edges without getting burned.

    The defrosting tray concept is a simple one, aluminum draws heat away but it also equalizes heat. That is if one side of the plate is cold, it rapidly will pull heat to that side to equalize the temperature. Thus is the magic of defrosting.

  76. mupwangle says:

    The guy that first properly documented it decided on Aluminium, so that’s the one that should be used, I reckon.

  77. proffessor sir harry says:

    Ok,this is it,the tray contains nano ants that thaw the meat by rubbing there knees together at 278htz,then quickly hopping to the meat and holding them against it causing “thawage”or “meltism”.So there we have it!

  78. proffessor sir harry says:

    Furthermore,having imparted the retained/stored heat energy from the “pre-rubbed” knees into the frozen but now thawing meat,the nano ants gather in groups of six,and with feet round waists,begin their arduous journey back to the nest,clinging to flakes of floating ice.On arrival at base ,they part company and begin to rub knees again in preparation for the next departure.

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