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. 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…

  2. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. >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).

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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!

  10. 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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