In this Wednesday's Curious Cook column I write about using a pot of hot water to thaw steaks, chicken breasts, and fish in minutes, rather than the few hours required in cold water or the many hours in a refrigerator. According to recent research funded by the USDA, rapid thawing can minimize the freeze-thaw damage to meat tissues, and taste panels couldn't tell the difference between meats that had been cooked after gradual or quick thawing.
Eastridge, J.S. and B.C. Bowker. Effect of rapid thawing on the meat quality attributes of USDA Select beef strip loin steaks. Journal of Food Science 2011, 76: S156-S162.
Shrestha, S. et al., Sensory quality and food safety of boneless chicken breast portions thawed rapidly by submersion in hot water. Food Control 2009, 20: 706-08.