How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods & Recipes to Try

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Odette Published: September 30, 2021 Modified: November 11, 2021

Planning on enjoying a scrumptious shredded chicken dinner on a weekend, only to find the poultry solid as a rock? No need to resort to canned chicken when you have quick, easy, and, not to mention, 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.

4 Safe Ways to Defrost Chicken Quickly

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

To add, improperly thawing chicken, like leaving it on your kitchen counter can spread bacteria. And not just on your kitchen counter. These bacteria can spread even on kitchen utensils and on your food. These increase the chance of food contamination which can lead to foodborne illnesses and food poisoning.

In this article, we’ll show you how to avoid such pesky problems. You’ll also find more tips on what to do and what not to do when handling chicken, including how long can chicken sit out on your counter.

Method 1: Defrost in Microwave

The fastest way to defrost your chicken safely is by using your microwave (or rotisserie oven if it has a defrosting setting). Many favor this method because it’s quick and can thaw chicken in a matter of minutes depending on the weight of your poultry.

defrosting chicken on a microwave

However, your microwave can only heat your chicken between 40 and 140 degrees F because it only uses low-power heat. Which is just enough for it to thaw, but not enough to kill the bacteria. Bacteria thrive in these temperatures. The safe cooking temperature for chicken is 165 degrees F. So remember to cook your chicken right away once it has been defrosted.

Here’s what you have to do for this method:

  1. First, remove the chicken from its original packaging. Place your chicken on a microwave-safe plate or bowl.
  2. Next, place the chicken in the microwave. Microwave settings differ from one brand to another, so follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Good thing most microwaves already has 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 breast and 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 poultry 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 every 30 minutes. This is to ensure water is cold. Cook chicken right away after thawing.

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 degrees to 40 degrees F or lower. 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. While chicken nearing its expiration date can be kept no longer than 24 hours. Lastly, to defrost chicken using this method, simply place a bag of chicken on a plate and place it at the bottom of the fridge.

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

Method 4: Cook Frozen Chicken (No Thawing)

You must be thinking: 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 the stove or oven. The only drawback? You have to add about 50 percent cooking time with this method. You also can’t use a slow cooker or a microwave to cook your frozen poultry. That’s right, this method involves no thawing!

Delicious Chicken Dinner Ideas To Try

easy sheet pan chicken cordon bleu recipe

Now that you know how to defrost chicken properly, it’s only fitting we’ll show you delicious chicken recipes to try. From chicken wings to easy Instant Pot chicken breast recipes, pick what you want to try below.

  • Domino’s Copycat Chicken WingsCraving for Domino’s chicken wings? Good thing we stumbled upon this easy recipe. This recipe will be done in less than an hour and yields 18 pieces of chicken wings.
  • Sesame Chicken BreastCook your just defrosted chicken breast using this easy but tasty recipe. Just prepare the sauce, cook chicken breasts on a skillet, and toss the sauce.
  • Oven-baked Rosemary Chicken Breast RecipeDon’t have time to completely thaw your chicken? Don’t worry. You can use this oven-baked chicken breast recipe. It’s perfectly safe and easy! It’s definitely a recipe you can rely on if you don’t have time to defrost chicken.
  • Homemade Instant Pot ChickenDo you prefer quick and easy recipes for crunch time? Use your Instant Pot! You can start with this recipe that only needs five ingredients that’s already in your pantry.

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. Plus, you’ll benefit in numerous ways too! Knowing how to defrost chicken properly is important not only because it ensures food safety, but also guarantees you get an evenly cooked chicken. So, use these fuss-free thawing methods the next time you brush up your cooking prowess.



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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