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How to Quickly Thaw Chicken

Realized that it’s almost dinner time but the chicken is still in the freezer? Don’t worry. Here, you’ll be able to learn everything you need to know about how to quickly thaw chicken!

Properly defrosting chicken is an important but really easy kitchen task. Overlooking food safety as you whip up a delicious chicken dinner for the whole family is a big NO.

Practicing food safety will not only help you whip up the best tasting meal but will also mean that no one will get sick from improperly thawed chicken. After all, foodborne illness is potentially deadly if not taken seriously. 

You don’t have to spend an awful amount of time in the kitchen thawing chicken safely before you can whip up a delicious dinner that the whole family will love. These easy methods on how to quickly thaw chicken will make your life easier! 

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Pin showing the title How to Quickly Thaw Chicken

How long does it take to defrost chicken? 

The time you’ll need to thaw a chicken will depend not just on the method you use but on the size of the meat as well. Thawing a whole chicken obviously requires more time. If the recipe does not call for a whole chicken or you’re aiming for quick thawing, make it a point to chop the chicken into smaller pieces before freezing. 

The safest and simplest way to defrost chicken is by refrigerator thawing. This method does not require hands on attention but of course, you have to plan ahead. 

A pound or more of ground chicken or slices of boneless chicken breasts often needs a day to fully thaw in the fridge. On the other hand, a whole five pound chicken, the bone in pieces, will take about two days to thaw. 

How can I defrost chicken quickly?

Refrigerator thawing is the simplest and safest way to defrost chicken but it requires advance planning as it can take a long time. So what would you do if you forgot to pull the chicken out of the freezer prior to cooking? How to quickly thaw chicken?

According to USDA, aside from refrigerator thawing, there are two more ways to defrost chicken safely and quickly: cold water thawing and microwave thawing. These methods are way much faster than refrigerator thawing but they also require more attention and hands on work.

If you are really in a rush and don’t have enough time to thaw, you can also safely cook your chicken in its frozen state! How? Read on below!

How to Quickly Thaw Chicken Featured Image

How long to thaw chicken in water:

Again, depending on the size of your chicken, cold water thawing can take about one to three hours. It’s a little faster than refrigerator thawing but it will still take hours and you also have to pay attention to it more.

If you’ve decided to use this method, make sure to put your chicken in a leakproof bag to prevent the meat from absorbing water and contacting any bacteria. You can prepare the cold water in a large bowl or simply in your kitchen sink. 

Once done, simply let the bagged chicken submerge in the cold water. However, remember to change the water every 30 minutes until the frozen chicken is completely thawed.

How long to defrost chicken in the microwave: 

Most microwave ovens come with defrosting settings and instructions that you can easily follow. The time required for microwave thawing will vary depending on the microwave oven you will be using, its wattage, and the size and thickness of the chicken. But it usually only takes about seven to eight minutes per pound. 

However, there are some reminders you should take into consideration when using a microwave to thaw chicken. Make sure to take note of these:

  • First things first, only thaw the amount of chicken your recipe needs, and remember to cook it right away. Since the microwave will heat the meat between the “danger zone temperatures,” cooking it immediately is the only way to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria. 
  • If your microwave does not have a defrost setting, set it to cook at 20% to 30% of its full power.
  • Don’t forget to remove the chicken’s packaging before putting it in a microwavable container or dish
  • Once the chicken is well cooked and has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, you can safely refreeze it for future meals.

How do you defrost a chicken in 15 minutes?

You can defrost frozen chicken breast in 15 minutes or less using the hot water bath method. This method is not officially recommended by the FDA but some food science experts suggest that there’s a safe way to do this. 

According to Harold McGee of the New York Times, you have to put the frozen chicken breast first in a leakproof bag before submerging it in hot water at exactly 140°F temperature. This method defrosts the meat so quickly that the rate of bacteria growth falls into the safe range.

While this method might be effective, it’s only applicable and safe for chicken breasts. Whole chicken is not suitable for the hot water bath because it will require a longer time and it might result in the growth of bacteria. 

Can I thaw chicken in hot water or on the counter?

The USDA does not recommend thawing chicken in hot water or defrosting meat on the counter. Letting a frozen chicken sit out for more than two hours in any place where temperatures are not consistently monitored is also a big NO. 

Room temperature is about 68°F and is considered in the “Danger Zone” for perishable foods. Harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly in places with temperatures between 40 and 140 °F.

On the other hand, using hot water may result in mildly cooking the edges or the outer layer of the chicken while the center remains frozen. Plus, the hot temperature can spoil your frozen chicken and might only result in unevenly thawed meat.

Can you cook frozen chicken?

Yes! The USDA confirms that it’s safe to cook foods in their frozen state. If you’re really in a hurry you can proceed with cooking your chicken without thawing.

But of course, this will require a longer cooking time by about 50% mainly because it’s highly recommended to cook frozen meat at a lower temperature. This simple cooking tip will ensure that the meat will be cooked well and evenly.

You can cook frozen chicken without thawing in the Instant Pot, oven, air fryer, or on the stovetop. Regardless of the recipe, it’s always advisable to use an instant read thermometer to make sure that your chicken reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). 

Another important thing to take note of is that your frozen chicken should at least be separated into individual pieces and not rock hard, in a lump, or whole. You should also not cook it in the microwave or slow cooker from frozen. 

Cooking frozen chicken in the microwave without thawing will likely result in unevenly cooked meat. On the other hand, cooking it in a slow cooker will expose the meat to the temperature danger zone where harmful bacteria might grow for too long a period of time. 

Additional Tips and Reminders on How to Quickly Thaw Chicken:

Chicken is one of the easiest proteins to prepare for a quick dinner idea. To make sure that you’ll be able to enjoy your meal to the fullest and avoid foodborne illness, here are more safety tips on how to quickly thaw chicken.

  • Before handling raw chicken, always remember to wash your hands with soap and water BUT never wash the chicken. Washing the chicken, either frozen or unfrozen, might be potentially dangerous as it can contaminate countertops, utensils, and other foods. 
  • Never thaw chicken or foods in general out on the kitchen counter, in the garage, outdoors, or dishwasher as this process will leave them unsafe to eat.
  • Use separate cutting boards to avoid cross contamination with other ingredients.
  • Chicken thawed by cold water and microwave is only safe to refreeze after cooking according to USDA standards.
  • Chicken thawed in the refrigerator remains safe and of good quality for a day or two before cooking.
  • If you need a guide on how to thaw a whole turkey, you can also check out this blog!

Quick and Easy Chicken Dinner Recipes You Can Try:

You’ll never run out of dinner ideas again with these amazing recipe collections! These fun roundups of chicken recipes are not only quick and easy to whip up but are family friendly as well. Make sure to give them a try!