This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links, I may earn a small commission.
Ever got home to prepare a delicious chicken dinner only to realize your chicken is still in the freezer? It happens to us all at some point! So, here are some tips on how to quickly defrost a chicken.
Rather than ordering pizza or making a run to the grocery store to buy a ready-to-cook chicken, try this instead.
There are actually a few different methods you can use when you need to quickly defrost a chicken.
In this article, I’m going to share the ones that are the safest options.
Before we jump into the best methods to quickly defrost chicken, let’s talk about the ways you should NOT defrost chicken.
Chicken Defrosting Methods to Avoid
Don’t Leave Chicken Out at Room Temperature
It may seem to make sense to let something that is frozen thaw out by just putting it somewhere that is room temperature and waiting.
But, this method is actually your best bet if you want to get food poisoning.
Bacteria thrives in temperatures ranging from 40-140°F (5-60 °C). Most room temperatures are right smack in the middle of that range!
So, leaving your chicken sitting on the countertop leading up to dinner can lead to foodborne illness after dinner.
In fact, it’s not recommended you keep ANY meat out at room temperature for more than 1 or 2 hours – even if it’s been fully cooked.
Don’t Defrost Chicken in the Microwave
I know, I know. The microwave literally has a defrost option. If it’s not safe to use, why would they have it?
For one, unless you hit the perfect balance between defrost time, meat weight, and microwave wattage, there’s always a chance that some of the chicken will actually start to cook.
This means that when you go to PROPERLY cook the chicken, those parts will likely be overcooked.
But, more importantly, defrosting chicken in the microwave can get it into that bacteria danger zone mentioned above.
Always remember: temperatures ranging from 40-140°F (5-60 °C) = Bacteria
This means you will need to cook your chicken immediately after defrosting to avoid food poisoning.
It’s also not recommended that you defrost a whole chicken in the microwave. Reserve microwave thawing for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
So, if you’re not supposed to leave it out at room temperature or pop it in the microwave and hit ‘defrost’, what SHOULD you do to quickly defrost a chicken?
Keep reading for my top 2 methods.
How to Quickly Defrost a Chicken
Use a Cold Water Bath
One of the best ways to quickly defrost a chicken is to submerge it into a cold water bath. This may seem counterproductive.
After all, why would you want to defrost something by sitting it in COLD water?
However, this is actually the method used by most professional chefs. The method is pretty straightforward.
Place your chicken in a Ziploc bag (to keep your meat from getting waterlogged and soggy) and then place it into either a sink full of cold water OR in a deep bowl of water.
Make sure the water is less than 40°F (5°C) at all times. You can do this by either keeping a stream of water running at that temperature OR check the water every 30 minutes if you want to conserve your water.
Depending on the size of your chicken, this method can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (with the bigger chickens taking longer, of course.
If you have a whole chicken and want it to defrost faster, wait until it has defrosted enough for you to safely cut it into smaller pieces.
If it is a big chunk of smaller pieces, wait until it defrosts a bit and then carefully separate the pieces so that they’re able to defrost quicker.
It also helps to change out your water more frequently if you’re opting to go that route.
Remember to cook the chicken as soon as it has thawed!
Use a Hot Water Bath
Ok, so you’re probably reading this and questioning my credibility. How do I go from recommending a cold water bath to a hot water bath.
Let me clarify: use this method ONLY for thinly sliced frozen chicken.
It’s not recommended for thick pieces of chicken or whole chickens.
But, if you’re trying to defrost some boneless chicken breast, chicken tenders, or something along those lines (no more than about an inch thick), this method can have you from frozen to ready-to-cook in 30 minutes (or less).
As with a cold water bath, you want to place your bagged chicken in a sink or bowl full of water.
This time, however, you want the temperature of the water to be at least 140°F (60°C).
Be sure to check the temperature often and to stir the water every now and then so that pockets of cold water don’t sneak up on you.
The goal is to keep the chicken out of that bacteria danger zone.
Be sure to cook the chicken as soon as it has been thawed.
Quick Tips for Defrosting Chicken
Cook Defrosted Chicken Immediately
I know I’ve mentioned this at least 3 times so far, but I feel like it’s important enough to say one more time.
Once you have defrosted your chicken (by whichever method you choose) – cook it immediately!
This will help you (and your fellow dinner companions) from dealing with a bout of food poisoning.
Defrost Chicken in the Refrigerator
If you don’t absolutely need to eat chicken tonight, I highly recommend choosing another meal to cook and defrosting your chicken in the best possible way – by putting it in the refrigerator.
That’s right – the SAFEST way to thaw frozen chicken is in your refrigerator.
Make sure you put it in a bowl, just in case it starts to leak. It may take 1-2 days to thaw a large whole chicken, but this is hands down the best and safest way to defrost a chicken.
Buy a Food Thermometer
If you cook a lot of meat I highly recommend buying a food thermometer. They could, quite literally, be a lifesaver.
Or, at the very least, save you from spending a lot of time bent over the toilet.
If you have questions about any type of food safety and handling, governmental agencies can be found online with the answers you need.
I hope that this has helped you in some way. May your days be filled with delicious meals and plenty of laughter around the dinner table!
Now, let’s get cooking with chicken.
Here are a few of our favourite Chicken Recipes:
Lemon and Rosemary come together to make this Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Recipe an absolute delight
This zingy Japanese Chicken is like a sweet and sour – but it’s not. It’s even better