It would be nice to head over to the butcher and get exactly the amount of meat you want to cook and eat every time you fire up your smoker. Sadly, sometimes life gets in the way and you need to plan a head, or have too much to cook for one meal. Freezing extra meat is a great way to preserve its freshness and have something delicious on hand to cook when the situation arises. Thawing meat before you put it on the smoker or just in a pan can be safely done if you plan a head and know how to do it.
Have a Game Plan
You need to keep your meat below 40 degrees to ensure it doesn't have any bacterial growth on it. This means that thawing meat on a counter top all day can be very dangerous. I typically use three different methods of thawing my meat depending on how far ahead I have planned and the type of meat it is.
Thawing in the Refrigerator
This is by far the most preferred method, it also takes the longest. Defrosting meat in your fridge means that it always stays below the magic 40 degree temperature, and will not be dangerous to eat. If you can plan far enough in advance this is the way to go. Keep in mind that a package of ground meat can take a full day, and a frozen turkey can need 24 hours for every 5 lbs, so if time is on your side just move what you want to cook from the freezer to the fridge and sit back and wait.
Cold Water Thawing
Your next best option to using the fridge is thawing in cold water. Basically you need to seal the frozen meat into a waterproof plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water to allow it to defrost. This can be a quicker alternative, but it will still take some time. A pound of ground beef will take 2-3 hours and a larger cut can take a half day. Keep the bag sealed, with all the air pressed out. Make sure the meat is submerged (you can weight it down if needed), and change the water every 30 minutes.
Really in a Hurry? Microwave!
This is the last resort. Microwaving meat to defrost can effect the flavor in some subtle ways, but if you have people coming over to eat in a few hours its your only option. All microwaves are different so follow the defrost settings on your model. Mine will thaw out a 2lb Boston butt in about 25 minutes. Make sure you get the meat on your smoker immediately after microwaving it, since the temperature will be ideal for bacteria growth when it comes out.