How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods (2024)

Table Of Contents


  • 4 Safe Ways to Thaw Chicken Quickly
  • Method 1: Defrost in Microwave
  • Method 2: Thaw in Cold Water
  • Method 3: Defrost in Refrigerator
  • Method 4: Cook Frozen Chicken (No Thawing)
  • Can You Refreeze Chicken?

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.

How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods (1)

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 recipesright 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.

How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods (2)

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.

How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods (3)

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 ofbacterial 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!

Share your thoughts and tips on Cooking Techniques for defrosting chicken quickly and safely.

How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods (2024)


How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods? ›

According to the USDA there are only two safe ways to thaw food quickly: in cold water and in the microwave.

How to quickly and safely defrost chicken? ›

According to the USDA there are only two safe ways to thaw food quickly: in cold water and in the microwave.

Is defrosting chicken in cold water safe? ›

If you only have a few hours to thaw your chicken, you can use cold water to defrost it. Never thaw meat at room temperature or in hot water. According to the USDA, as soon as meat reaches 40 degrees F, it enters the food "Danger Zone," where bacteria can multiply and make it unsafe to eat.

What is the all food safe option for defrosting chicken? ›

Defrosting meat, including poultry, fish and seafood, can be done in:
  • the refrigerator.
  • the microwave.
  • cold water within a sealed package.
Jun 9, 2017

Is it safe to defrost chicken in the microwave? ›

Yes, it is safe to thaw meat and poultry in a microwave oven. When microwave-thawing meat and poultry, plan to fully cook it immediately because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook.

What are the three safe ways to defrost chicken? ›

When thawing frozen food, it's best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below. There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. In a hurry? It's safe to cook foods from the frozen state.

Is it OK to thaw chicken directly in water? ›

Was this helpful? It's better to thaw chicken before cooking it. You can do this safely in the refrigerator, microwave, or with cold water.

How long can chicken sit in water to thaw? ›

Chicken will thaw faster if it's submerged in cold water. A package of chicken breasts or thighs can thaw within a couple of hours in a bowl of cold tap water kept in the sink. FSIS says, "A whole (3- to 4-pound) broiler-fryer or package of parts should thaw in 2 to 3 hours."

How long can you leave chicken out to thaw in cold water? ›

Change the water every 20 to 30 minutes to ensure it stays cold while the chicken is thawing — this will prevent any risk of the meat entering that temperature danger zone I mentioned above. This method can take anywhere between one and three hours, depending of the size and thickness of your chicken.

Which method is not safe for thawing frozen meat? ›

Never thaw food in a garage, basem*nt, car, dishwasher, plastic garbage bag, in hot water, out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat. For safe thawing methods, see: The Big Thaw.

How do chefs defrost chicken? ›

His speed thawing method, however, is safe: Put the meat (still wrapped in its packaging) in a bowl in the sink and run a steady stream of cool water on it for about 30 minutes. This keeps the meat at a safe temperature as it thaws while still retaining those meaty juices.

Can I cook chicken from frozen? ›

Fortunately, we can all take a collective sigh of relief, because the USDA says it is fine to cook chicken from frozen, just keep in mind that the cooking time will be about 50 percent longer. However, chicken should never be cooked from frozen in a slow cooker or microwave.

Can you cook chicken that is not fully defrosted? ›

Echeverria says you can safely cook chicken without thawing it, but she admits it can be tricky to cook it evenly. Often, the outside of the chicken will finish cooking while the interior meat will still be frozen and raw.

Is it okay if chicken cooks a little while defrosting? ›

Yes and no. “The goal is always to defrost the chicken without beginning the cooking process,” says Lonsdale. “If it cooks a little while defrosting—which is common if you're using the microwave method—it's not a problem. Plan to cook your chicken as soon as possible after defrosting to avoid any bacterial growth.”

How long should I defrost chicken in the microwave? ›

Set the cooking timer. Keep in mind that most meats, such as chicken, beef or pork must defrost for 8–10 minutes per pound. The thawing time for fish or other seafood can vary, so check the packaging for more information.

Can I thaw chicken in hot water? ›

No, meat and poultry should not be thawed in hot water. They must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. For more information on thawing see our fact sheet The Big Thaw.

Does warm water defrost chicken faster? ›

Frozen chicken can be thawed, either in vacuum-sealed bags or sturdy, leak-proof, zipper-top storage bags, in a bowl of cold water sitting on the counter. Do not use hot water. Besides possibly enabling bacteria to multiply, warm water will also start to “cook” the outside of the meat before the middle is thawed.

Why does chicken thaw faster in cold water? ›

Cold water thawing method is favorable when a short thawing time is required. In this method, frozen food is immersed in a tank of cold water at a temperature above the melting point of the food. Heat transfer occurs due to the temperature difference between the food and the water.

How can I defrost chicken in 2 hours? ›

Cold water method:

Swap out the water with fresh cold water every 30 minutes or so to maintain a safe temperature. According to the USDA, a 3- to 4-pound frozen chicken or package of chicken parts will take about two to three hours to thaw this way. You can thaw a whole turkey this way, too!

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