How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods

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Odette Published: September 30, 2021 Modified: March 14, 2022
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Planning on trying some shredded chicken dinner ideas, only to find the raw meat solid as a rock? No need to resort to canned products when you have quick, easy, and safe methods on how to defrost chicken quickly. You can use cold water or your refrigerator. Want something quicker? There’s also the microwave method.

We’ll tell you how to defrost chicken properly in this article, so you can avoid attracting foodborne illnesses, food poisoning, and even unevenly cooked chicken. You’ll also find more tips on what to do and what not to do when handling raw chicken, including how long it can sit out on your counter at room temperature.

4 Safe Ways to Thaw Chicken Quickly

Oftentimes, we try to thaw chicken without knowing the proper way to do it. But knowing how to defrost chicken is actually just as important as knowing how to boil it including being able to tell if it has gone bad. That’s because properly thawed meat ensures it’s evenly cooked. Otherwise, you’ll risk overcooking some parts while undercooking the rest.

Improperly thawing chicken, like leaving it on your kitchen counter can spread bacteria which can latch on kitchen utensils and on your food. These increase the chance of foodborne illnesses and food poisoning. What a shame if this happened to your best chicken dishes!

Method 1: Defrost in Microwave

So, how do you thaw or unfreeze chicken fast? Generally speaking, the microwave method is the fastest way to defrost chicken.  You may also use a rotisserie oven if it has a defrosting setting. We love this method because it’s quick and can thaw frozen chicken in a matter of minutes, depending on how much it weighs.

defrosting chicken on a microwave

However, the microwave can only heat chicken between 40 and 140 degrees F because it only uses low-power heat. This is enough to thaw, but not to kill the bacteria. They thrive in temperatures, after all

The safe cooking temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F. So, make sure you cook your best chicken recipes right after defrosting the meat in the microwave.

How to defrost chicken in the microwave:

  1. First, remove the chicken from its original packaging, then place on a microwavesafe plate or bowl.
  2. Put the chicken cuts in the microwave. Microwave settings differ from one brand to another, so follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Good thing most microwaves already have defrost presets so simply press the appropriate button. Now if your oven doesn’t have such a feature, simply set it to 20 to 30 percent of its power.
  3. Lastly, set the timer. Each pound of chicken must be defrosted for eight to 10 minutes. During this time, you have to check doneness in two-minute intervals. This applies to chicken breasts and whole chicken. Now, you’re all set to cook up some crispy fried chicken wings

How long to defrost chicken in the microwave: Two minutes per pound, or 10 to 20 minutes for a whole chicken.

Method 2: Thaw in Cold Water

Defrosting chicken in cold tap water is easy, but there are a couple of things you have to remember.

defrosting chicken in a water bath

Flickr | Waifer X

One of the first things to take note of is to avoid defrosting chicken in hot water no matter how rushed or late you are for dinner. Again, bacteria grow and thrive in temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees F. Thus, thawing chicken in hot water will put it in the “danger zone“, as they call it.

Secondly, it’s important to not remove your chicken from its plastic bag or packaging when you’re thawing in cold water. The packaging prevents the bacteria from spreading on your countertop. Lastly, never leave the chicken out in the refrigerator longer than two hours.

For this method, just follow these easy steps:

  1. Get your chicken. Keep it inside its packaging or place it in a zip-lock bag.
  2. Place the chicken in a big bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water. Make sure the water is cold. You can use tap water only if the water is pleasantly cold. If it’s warm, add ice to bring the temperature down.
  3. Per pound of chicken should be thawed for one hour. Boneless chicken breast thaws in one to two hours.
  4. If you’re defrosting chicken pieces, check your chicken on the one-hour mark. Break the pieces apart to speed up its thawing process.
  5. Lastly, replace the water bath every 30 minutes. This is to ensure water is cold. Cook chicken right away after thawing.

How long to defrost chicken in cold water: One to two hours.

READ ALSO: White Meat vs Dark Meat Chicken: What’s The Difference?

Method 3: Defrost in Refrigerator

Out of all the methods listed, the refrigerator method is the safest as it maintains the chicken’s temperature at 38 to 40 degrees F or lower. This is also the reason why it’s the best way to thaw or defrost chicken if you won’t be using the entire chicken immediately. Now, this fuss-free method requires the most planning and preparation because it takes two days for a chicken to thaw completely.

defrosting chicken in the refrigerator

Flickr | U.S. Department of Agriculture

But how long does it take to defrost a chicken in the fridge? Defrosting period for this method depends on the weight and cut of the chicken. A whole chicken weighing up to five to nine pounds needs two days to fully thaw. Meanwhile, per pound of ground chicken and boneless chicken breast needs a full day. 

The freshness of the chicken also affects how long you can leave it in the fridge. Thawed fresh chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. Meanwhile chicken nearing its expiration date can be kept for no longer than 24 hours. Lastly, to defrost chicken using this method, simply put a bag of chicken on a plate and place it at the bottom of the fridge.

How long to defrost chicken in the refrigerator: One to two days.

How Long Can Chicken Stay In the Fridge?

While most of us know that you can keep chicken in the freezer for up to a year, it’s a different scenario if you’re storing or defrosting the meat in the fridge. The frozen meat would be completely thawed out by the two-day mark. So, you should keep raw chicken in the fridge no longer than two days to reduce the risk of contamination. 

READ ALSO: How Long Does Chicken Last in the Fridge And Freezer? (Both Raw and Cooked!)

Method 4: Cook Frozen Chicken (No Thawing)

Can you boil frozen chicken and just skip the thawing part altogether? According to the USDA, it’s perfectly safe to cook frozen chicken by using a stove or oven. You can do this for all chicken parts, including frozen chicken breasts and thighs

The drawbacks? You have to add about 50 percent more cooking time  to achieve the ideal internal temperature. You also can’t use a slow cooker or a microwave to cook frozen meat. That makes it all the more important to know how to thaw or defrost frozen chicken properly

Can You Refreeze Chicken?

Based on the USDA guidelines on food safety, refreezing chicken is perfectly fine. There is a catch, though. Do this only if the raw meat has been thawed out in the refrigerator. As mentioned in the previous sections, this thawing method is the safest out of all four, simply because the meat stays cool as the ice melts. It doesn’t expose the chicken to heat, lessening the risk of bacterial growth and contamination. It’s also important to note that refreezing may affect the overall quality of the meat. 

READ ALSO: 5 Ways On How To Reheat Fried Chicken ’til It’s Crispy

Learning How to Defrost Chicken Properly Can Help Prevent Food Poisoning 

Defrosting chicken is often overlooked, but it’s high time you change that and practice proper thawing. Knowing how to quickly thaw or defrost chicken properly is important not only because it ensures food safety, but also guarantees evenly cooked meat for your breaded chicken recipe. So, use these fuss-free thawing methods the next time you brush up your cooking prowess!

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Odette

Odette is a content writer and proofreader by day, and living her inner artist as a poet and singer by night. She's also a former member of a publication who she now mentors from time to time. She likes how sharing a tiny bit of her life and her journey can help others in return. And because she is a curl embassador, she finds joy in empowering fellow curlies to embrace their natural curls. She also loves doing random acts of service to people she loves by cooking for them during her free time. This girl loves anything pasta and French cuisine though she just went through her Japanese and Korean cuisine phase.

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