How To Thaw Chicken Wings (3 Safe & Quick Methods)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: March 15, 2024

Cooking chicken can be tricky, and there are a bunch of ways to do it wrong.

Poor handling and preparation can result in a trip to the doctor with some unfortunate food poisoning.

We have gone ahead and listed the best way to defrost chicken below!

Quick Summary

  • Thawing chicken wings can be done through three safe methods: in the refrigerator, in the microwave, or in cold water.
  • The refrigerator method is the safest but takes longer (4-5 hours per 450g), while the microwave is the fastest but requires careful attention, and the cold water method preserves quality and takes 30-40 minutes per 2 pounds.
  • According to a 2023 Statista report, chicken things were the second most popular cut of chicken sold in the US in 2022, four times lower than chicken breast, whole sales reached $8.7 billion [1].
  • Thawing chicken on the counter is not recommended as it exposes the meat to hot air and bacteria growth.

What’s the Best Way to Defrost Frozen Chicken Wings?

Woman opening a refrigerator

One of the biggest culprits of food poisoning is improper defrosting. It can also cause the food to taste bland. Unfortunately, frozen meat can be tricky to get right.

If you’re on a time crunch, you can end up cooking your frozen chicken wings before they’re ready to eat. Not only do poorly thawed wings taste unpleasant, but it is also a safety hazard.

There are 3 safe ways for thawing chicken wings:

  1. In the refrigerator
  2. In the microwave
  3. In cold water

Let’s look into each of these methods of thawing chicken wings in detail.

Method 1: Thaw In The Refrigerator

This method of thawing chicken wings may take a little longer, but defrosting chicken in the refrigerator is the safest way to thaw your wings.

Give yourself enough time if you wish to do this, and keep note of how long your chicken has been thawing.

The process is quite straightforward:

  1. Put your frozen meat into a large, sealed bag.
  2. To stop any excess juice leaking onto other food, sit your chicken to defrost on a lipped plate or bowl.
  3. Leave the meat to thaw at the bottom of the refrigerator for around 4-5 hours per 450g. Ideally, you should leave a whole chicken to thaw overnight.

This is probably the preferred way to defrost chicken, considering it takes the least amount of effort and doesn’t expose the meat to warm temperatures.

Method 2: Thaw in the Microwave

Defrosting chicken wings in a microwave

Using a microwave to defrost the chicken wings is probably the fastest and most reliable way for thawing frozen chicken. While it is quick, it also needs your close attention as it defrosts.

You don’t want to end up cooking the chicken instead of thawing it. Doing so is a recipe for disaster.

You can ruin the chicken's texture, exposing the wings to bacteria and making it tough for you to cook. When microwaving your wings, you must get it right.

If it's cooked too long or too high, you’ll completely ruin it, and it won’t be safe to eat.

The ice in the chicken will turn to water, which will start to cook via steam from the inside.

Pro tip: Check on the meat every two minutes when microwaving.

Just remember: The chicken MUST be cooked as soon as you finish thawing it in the microwave.

A study in the National Library of Medicine, investigated consumer practices on storing and thawing chicken, finding that microwave thawing resulted in the highest drip loss, while refrigerator thawing was most effective in preserving quality, with no significant differences in texture across methods [2].

According to a Healthline article, microwaves heat poultry to a temperature between 40 and 140ºF (4.4 and 60 degrees C), in which bacteria thrive [3]. The only way you can cook the chicken safely is at the proper temperature since it will kill dangerous bacteria.

Read More: How to Defrost Meat in Microwave?

Method 3: Thawing in Cold Water

Sometimes referred to as a “cold water bath,” this cold water method is fast and great at preserving the quality of the meat.

Meat always tastes better when it’s fresh and not thawed, but this method is great for maintaining flavor and texture, just like you were to cook chicken in the oven or grill.

This method for thawing chicken wings can take around 30-40 minutes per 2 pounds of chicken to thaw safely.

Here’s how you do that:

  1. Fill a large bowl 3 quarters full with cold water and submerge your wings inside. To make sure the water stays fresh and cold, you can refill the water every 10 minutes.
  2. If you’re extra cautious about bacteria, you can also place the wing inside a clear plastic bag in the water.

Since you’re only thawing chicken wings and not the whole chicken, it’ll take less time. Make sure the water is cold as the chicken is thawing.

This cold temperature will ensure the meat doesn’t fall into the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F, where bacteria develops.

A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.

- Thomas Keller

Also Read: How to Defrost Chicken?

How Not to Thaw Chicken

A close up image of frozen chicken wings on a counter top

Do NOT thaw chicken on the counter. Unfortunately, this good old method of thawing chicken wings on the countertop ially a safe way. It can be pretty harmful.

Frozen food should never be left thawing on the counter because it leaves the chicken open to hot air and bacteria growth, as well as the countertop.

Thawing chicken wings using the methods above, either in the fridge or sink, will be much safer and quicker.

Can You Cook Frozen Chicken?

Baking chicken from frozen is possible. It’ll only take a longer time, but doable.

But, when you cook frozen chicken wings by frying, it won’t be very effective since the meat will get crispy on the outside before it cooks on the inside.

Read More:


Uncooked chicken wings in a plain background

How Long Does Frozen Chicken Last?

You can generally store raw chicken in the fridge for 2-3 days, storing it in the freezer will last between 9 to 12 months. Freezing meat is a good way to preserve your food. But even frozen food has expiration dates.

What’s the Safest Temp to Store Chicken?

As long as you’re outside of 40-140°F, your meat will be safe. Never keep poultry at room temp for a longer time than two hours.


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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Gabrielle Woods holds a BSc degree in Hospitality Management with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas, majoring in Culinary Entrepreneurship. She helps clients achieve specific fitness goals through protein-based meal prepping. She believes cooking is both an art and a science best done with a balance of tradition and innovation.
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