Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: July 16, 2023

As a carnivore fanatic, I always have my freezer stashed with chicken. I use it almost daily to make salads and sandwiches or serve as a quick snack.

However, since it’s frozen, I must defrost it before cooking. Consistent defrosting has enabled me to know the best methods that won't affect the quality of my chicken.

Here are the best tried-and-true methods.

Quick Summary

  • Refrigerator thawing is the best method since it keeps the quality of chicken intact.
  • It takes 30 minutes to defrost 900g of chicken in cold water.
  • Microwave thawing is ideal for chicken breasts.

What's The Best Way to Defrost Chicken?

Putting chicken in the fridge to defrost

The best way to defrost frozen chicken is in the fridge overnight. This method results in a perfectly thawed chicken, so you don't have to worry about some portions cooking or drying out like you do when using the microwave.

Larger chicken pieces, particularly whole chicken, should be defrosted in the fridge instead of the microwave [1].

Because the chicken begins to cook on the outside before the inside has thawed, and a lengthy thawing time is required for a whole bird or large cut.

Defrosting Chicken in The Fridge

A defrosting chicken inside the fridge

You can safely thaw chicken by placing it in the refrigerator first, but doing so requires preparation and may take up to two days, based on the amount of frozen chicken you are trying to thaw [2].

Chicken breasts, whole chickens, and bone-in chicken can take up to 24 hours. Follow these steps to defrost chicken safely:

  • If unwrapped, put your meat in a bowl or pan to collect the fluids.
  • Check the temperature setting of your refrigerator before you continue so you'll know how long it will take to thaw chicken at 35°F compared to 40°F.
  • Temperatures above 40°F are considered a danger zone since this is when bacteria multiply.
  •  The defrosted chicken can be refrozen if necessary, though some quality loss may occur. It will stay safe for a day after it has thawed out.

According to the USDA, defrosted chicken can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days in an airtight container, a vacuum-sealed meat shelf container or a bag because oxygen tends to speed up the rotting process.

"Refrigerator thawing takes longer, but the leftovers remain safe the entire time. The meal can be refrozen after thawing if it isn't consumed in 3 to 4 days."
- United States Department of Agriculture

I recommended storing the chicken on the bottom shelf so that no food is contaminated below in case of a leak.

Defrosted meats should be kept in your refrigerator's coldest sections, away from the door, if you won't be cooking chicken immediately.

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Defrosting Chicken in Cold Water

Chicken being defrosted using cold water

You can defrost chicken quickly by submerging it in a bowl full of cold water, not warm or hot water. I use this method when I have limited time to defrost my chicken.

The cold water method, also known as the cold water bath, maintains the quality of the meat. Although defrosted chicken never compares to fresh meat in flavor or texture, this method lets you enjoy fresh chicken's taste and texture.

This method requires no additional cooking equipment and takes 30 minutes to thaw 2 pounds (approximately 900 grams).

Here's a detailed explanation of what you should do:

  • Place the chicken in a sandwich bag with a tight seal so that water can't seep in and taint it.
  • Put the bag in a sizable mixing bowl or clean dishwater.
  • Dip the bag into the bowl of cold water. Ensure the water is cool; using warm or hot water can be unsafe and encourage the growth of bacteria on the chicken.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes.

It will take longer to prepare a whole chicken than thighs, wings, or chicken breasts. To avoid this, separate the frozen meat as it thaws to expedite the process.

This will facilitate the water's penetration of more parts of the bird and the cavities.

Use plastic wrap to keep the chicken moist and prevent its natural juices from drying.

Also Read: How to Thaw a Turkey in a Cooler

Thawing Chicken in the Microwave

Thawing chicken using a microwave

You can thaw chicken by just popping it in the microwave. Defrosting meat in the microwave affects its quality since the meat heats up unevenly.

The heat waves typically strike the chicken in various locations, cooking certain sections while leaving others uncooked.

If you use this method, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the best choice; avoid doing it on whole raw chicken or skin-on, bone-in poultry.

To thaw your chicken breasts fast, stick to these directions:

  • Remove the meat from the freezer - Your chicken's weight determines timings, so check the label or weigh it before tossing its original packaging.
  • Set your frozen chicken breast in a microwave-safe dish that can be heated in a microwave.
  • Use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw it. If your microwave has no defrost setting, set it to cook between 20 and 30% of its maximum power.
  • Set a timer for cooking. Remember that it takes the most meat, including chicken, pork, or beef, 8–10 minutes to defrost for every pound.
  • Turn it once or twice throughout that period. This makes sure that the thawing happens consistently.

Although it's an effortless method that takes a few minutes, your chicken should be cooked immediately when you remove it from the microwave.

I only advise using the microwave option on chicken breasts because they have a consistent thickness. Otherwise, microwaves habitually cook the thinnest section first, leaving the heavier parts frozen.

Also Read: How to Thaw Hamburger Meat


How to Tell When Chicken Is Properly Defrosted?

You can tell the chicken is properly defrosted by making a cut in the area of the chicken with the thickest meat. You should be able to easily slice through the thickest section of it and insert your finger into the cut without meeting much resistance.

Is It Safe to Defrost Chicken in Water?

It is safe to defrost chicken in water. However, thawing in hot water also leaves you with a gradient of temperatures — the chicken will defrost faster on the outside than on the inside.

What's The Fastest Way to Defrost Chicken?

The fastest way to defrost chicken is in a microwave, but this method is suitable for even smaller pieces of chicken, like chicken breast. If you have extra time to spare, you can defrost it in cold water.

Defrosting Chicken The Safest & Fastest Way

Defrosting chicken in the refrigerator overnight is the safest way to thaw the chicken. But if you want to speed up the process, I recommend defrosting the chicken in a bowl of cold water changed out every 30 minutes.

A microwave is another quick option, but it can cook chicken portions. Getting fresh quality chicken is the first and safest step towards defrosting safely.

If you want to stack up on fresh frozen chicken, ButcherBox is an excellent place to start. I've been buying from them for over two years, and their carefully chosen, sustainably grown poultry, beef, and pork have been a delight for my carnivorous meals.


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