How to Defrost Chicken Fast – Best Way to Thaw Chicken Meat

It's almost mealtime, but your chicken is still inside the fridge. The next thing you'll start wondering is how to defrost the chicken. Defrosting chicken involves increasing the temperature of your frozen chicken to make it ready for cooking.

The safest way to defrost chicken is by leaving it to thaw in the refrigerator. If you're in a rush, microwaving can be the best option. Another way is to use a cold water bath.

Whichever method you choose, you must consider food safety guidelines and follow all the recommended methods step by step. Handling frozen chicken poorly could cause foodborne illness or poisoning as raw chicken can be a home for bacterial growth.

This article will teach you how to defrost chicken in 3 different methods, with all the details required to follow the food safety guidelines.

3 FDA Approved & Recommended Methods to Thaw/Defrost Chicken Fast and Safe


Below we have included three recommended methods to defrost chicken fast which are approved by the FDA.

We included what is the safest method, what is the fastest and which is the best method based on our opinion.

1. The Safest Way: Defrost Chicken using a Refrigerator

Defrosting your frozen chicken in the fridge is the safest and most reliable method. It involves leaving the chicken in the refrigerator to cool while defrosting.

Therefore, the fridge prevents your chicken from getting warm for extended periods to allow bacterial growth.

However, your frozen chicken won't defrost right away. It may take 1-2 days to defrost thoroughly. But that will depend on how big the pieces of frozen chicken you want to thaw.

So, it's why you must plan your meals. Make sure you start the thawing process at least one day before planning to use the chicken.

The best part? This method is easy as it doesn't require a hands-on operation.

How to Defrost Chicken in a Refrigerator


Image Credits: WebMD

  • Place your frozen chicken in the microwave to thaw for up to 24 hours per 1-5 pounds of meat.
  • Keep the chicken meat in the lower drawer. This ensures that your foods are safe from contamination due to leaks as the chicken defrosts. Consider putting the chicken in a pan, bowl, or plastic container to collect all the juices.
  • Make sure to check your refrigerator's settings to know what you expect. If it is at 350°F, your frozen chicken will take longer to defrost. For faster thawing, set the refrigerator at 400°F.
  • Fridge-thawed chicken will stay safe for 1-2 days. If there's any remains, you can refreeze it but expect your chicken meat to decrease in quality.
  • Store the thawed chicken in the fridge's coldest parts if you intend not to cook the chicken immediately.

2. The Best Way: Defrosting Chicken in Cold Water Bath


A cold water bath offers you the best way to thaw your frozen chicken. It can also be an ideal method to use when you're running out of time.

With this method, you'll have your frozen chicken ready for cooking in a couple of hours.

How to Defrost Chicken in a Cold Water Bath

The thawing process in cold water bath involves the following steps:

  • Put the chicken in a leak-proof zip-lock bag or airtight packaging. This prevents water from entering into your meat and makes it soggy.
  • Dip to completely submerge the packaging or bag in the cold tap water.
  • Replace the water in the bath after every 30 minutes to keep your chicken cold for better thaw results.
  • Cook the thawed chicken right away to prevent bacterial growth.

How Long it Takes to Thaw Chicken with Cold Water?


Credits: FoodNetwork

With this method, thawing chicken in small bags (about 1 pound) will take around an hour. If the bag weighs 3-4 pounds, expect your chicken to defrost in around 2-3 hours.

Before refreezing your thawed chicken, make sure you cook it. Also, cook the meat a bit quickly after defrosting, depending on the meat's period on the countertop.

Don't ever use hot or warm water to defrost your chicken. If you realize that the water flowing out of the faucet is warm, place ice cubes in the basin before thawing your chicken.

Dealing with Large Chicken Pieces

If your frozen chicken is in large boneless pieces, you may want to chop it into smaller pieces. Partially defrost the whole frozen chicken pieces in a cold water bath. After that, please remove it from the bag and start cutting.

The meat's frozen core prevents it from sliding while cutting to give you neater and uniform pieces. Place the pieces back into the leak-proof bag, seal it, and finish defrosting.

Keep watching over the pieces and replace the water regularly to defrost the meat faster.

Cook the pieces immediately after thawing. That's because opening the airtight packaging offers entry for bacteria that could grow and cause food poisoning.

3. The Fastest Way to Thaw Chicken: Use a Microwave


Frozen Whole Chicken

Most modern microwaves have defrost settings that enable you to thaw your frozen chicken very fast. Such units come with a manual for particular instructions on thawing frozen chicken using the defrost setting.

How to Defrost Chicken in a Microwave

Here are the steps to follow for defrosting chicken meat in microwave in a safe way:

  • Decide on the quantity of chicken meat you want to defrost in a microwave. It is advisable to thaw frozen chicken in smaller pieces to prevent uneven thawing.
  • Put the chicken pieces on a microwave-safe dish and place them inside the microwave.
  • Press the defrost button on your microwave if it has one. It doesn't have, set the microwave to 50% power level to ensure even thawing.
  • The amount of time needed may vary depending on the weight or thickness of your chicken pieces. However, set a timer for 2 minutes on your microwave if you're not sure.
  • Pause to turn over the meat after one minute to ensure that the frozen chicken pieces defrost uniformly.
  • Always check on the healing progress. If you realize that the chicken hasn't thawed completely, consider adding a few extra seconds or a minute to the thawing time.
  • Cook the chicken right away after thawing to prevent the meat from reaching the temperature for breeding bacteria (400°F-1400°F).
  • Ensure you cook the chicken before refreezing it again.
  • Also, remember to clean your microwave thoroughly.

Which is the Best Method to Defrost Chicken


Safest Way to Thaw Frozen Chicken

I understand that we are all not equal. Everyone has their unique preferences. So answering this question might be difficult as it depends on your preferences.

But personally, using the refrigerator is the best method to defrost the chicken. I'm also sure that many other sources will agree.

This method is super easy and guarantees you the best thawing results. In other words, you can expect your frozen chicken to thaw uniformly without any parts getting dried out or cooked as with the microwave.

The process involves leaving your frozen chicken to thaw slowly while remaining cold. For this defrosting method to work, you must wait for at least a day or two for your frozen chicken to defrost thoroughly.

This means that you have to plan before cooking your recipe. It can seem like a lot of work, but it is undoubtedly the safest method.

That's because the cold temperatures of the fridge will keep the meat cool. And that prevents bacterial growth, which could lead to more health complications. It means that your food will be safe for consumption.

How Long Does it Take to Defrost Chicken? 

The time required to defrost frozen chicken will vary depending on the method you choose. Generally, it takes 10 minutes to 2 days to thaw chicken.

With the refrigeration method, it can take around 1 to 2 days. But this may also vary depending on how large or pounds of frozen chicken you have.

If you opt to use a cold water bath, the thawing process can take one hour per pound of chicken.

As for the microwave with the defrost setting may take up to 2 minutes to thaw the chicken. But if your unit lacks the defrost setting, the thawing process may last for 10 minutes. Still, the time will vary depending on the quantity of chicken you are thawing.

Can You Defrost Chicken on the Open Counter? 


Credit: Meghan Splawn

Yes, the temperatures of the room will eventually defrost the chicken. But it is not advisable to leave the frozen chicken on the open counter or in a basement.

Why? The room temperature is often about 680°F and lies in the "danger zone" for storing your poultry meat. This temperature ranges from 40 to 1440°F, which is favorable for the bacteria to multiply in large numbers rapidly.

Thawing frozen chicken on an open counter exposes the meat to harmful temperatures. As a result, it increases the risk of bacterial growth, leading to food illness.

Food illness is quite risky, and chicken can make you sick if you improperly handle it. The USDA states that the possible bacteria a raw chicken may host include:

  • E. Coli
  • Salmonella
  • Staphylococcus Aureus
  • Listeria Monocytogenes

These bacteria are dangerous. They could get you sick or even kill you. Therefore, it is vital to ensure you thaw and cook your chicken correctly to at least temperatures of 165°F to reduce the possible risks.

Some of these practices include:


Credits: Trish Deseine

1) Never defrost chicken on the open kitchen counter as bacteria thrive best at room temperature.
You should never rinse the chicken under running tap water. Doing so will spread bacteria around the kitchen area, resulting in cross-contamination.

2) Defrosting chicken in the refrigerator is the safest method. That's because the chicken thaws at cool temperatures that inhibit bacterial invasion. But it may take you up to 2 days for the chicken to be ready for cooking. So, plan early enough to avoid any inconvenience.

3) If you're running short on time, consider using a cold water bath or your microwave defrost setting. However, you'll need to cook your food immediately after thawing. This will help keep your food safe from bacteria and food illness.

Regardless of the defrosting method you choose, follow the food safety guidelines. They will help preventing the meat to go bad, will help you stay healthy and also prevent any foodborne illness.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, living in Kansas. He loves to share his passion about outdoor cooking with everyone on various Social Media platforms (Read More)

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