Let’s admit it, most of us have been faced with a situation when we come back from work and realize that we forgot to take out the chicken to defrost it for dinner.
The question is – what is the best way to defrost chicken quickly and safely?
Here is a quick overview on how to defrost chicken and which method to choose depending on the time you have until you need to cook it and serve it.
What is the best way to defrost chicken?
Here are the most common methods for defrosting chicken as fast as possible while keeping the poultry safe from harmful bacterial growth.
Use hot water
The chicken defrosting method using a hot water bath is simple and works quickly, especially when you need to defrost thin chicken pieces and slices as fast as possible.
Here is how to defrost the chicken using hot water:
- Fill a large bowl with hot tap water.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the water’s temperature. It should be around 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wrap the chicken in leak-proof plastic.
- Submerge the thin pieces of chicken (1 inch thick at the most) into the hot water, making sure that it is completely submerged under the water.
- Stir the water in the bowl periodically.
- The chicken should be completely defrosted in about 30 minutes.
Please note that the hot water bath method works only for frozen chicken pieces, which are only up to 1 inch thick. Submerging larger chicken pieces or a whole chicken in hot water will require more time for thawing, and thus, there could be a risk of the growth of harmful bacteria during the defrosting.
Thawing thinner pieces of chicken up to 1 inch thick in hot water is quick and thus is safe, according to numerous studies. But if you have wrapped the pieces in thick plastic, it may take more time for them to thaw.
The hot water defrosting method for thinner slices and pieces of chicken is not only safe and fast but will also not affect the texture or flavor of the poultry when performed properly.
It is also the fastest way to ensure that your chicken strips are ready to be cooked even when you have less than 30 minutes to start preparing the meal.
Use cold water
If you happen to have more time to defrost the chicken before cooking it, you can use the cold water bath method.
This method is the same as the hot water method, but you will need to submerge the frozen chicken into a bowl of cold tap water instead.
Once again, you should make sure that the poultry is wrapped in leak-proof plastic before submerging it.
You can throw out the water and add new cold water periodically or leave the bowl under the running tap to ensure that the water remains cool throughout the thawing.
Use the fridge
This is among the most popular methods for defrosting chicken and is also the safest. But it takes a lot longer to thaw a frozen chicken in the fridge than when using the hot or cold bath methods.
So, use the refrigerator method if you have the time to leave the frozen chicken in the fridge for 18 to 20 hours.
If you are planning on cooking a whole bird, you can let it defrost in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, as it may take longer for it to thaw completely.
But do not leave the raw chicken in the refrigerator for more than 2 days, or it may become dangerous to eat.
The refrigerator method is the only safe way to defrost a whole frozen chicken. Just make sure that you take it out of the freezer in time before you need to cook it.
And also, remember to cook it within the next 48 hours in order to keep the poultry out of the danger zone before the growth of harmful bacteria will begin.
Plus, you should place the chicken in a bowl, plate, or tray on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent any juices from dripping over the other food in the fridge.
What is the worst way to defrost chicken?
While it may look like an easy and safe way to defrost the chicken, just leaving it at room temperature on the countertop is a definite no-no.
If you leave the chicken at such a temperature, this increases the risk of the growth of harmful bacteria.
The danger zone temperature for poultry and bacterial growth is from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (5-60 degrees Celsius).
Even though if you use the hot or cold bath methods, you will be leaving the frozen chicken in temperatures within the danger zone. The trick is that the defrosting is fast enough to eliminate the risk of the food becoming dangerous.
But thawing a chicken in water will remain safe only if you cook it immediately after using the water bath for thawing it.
If you leave it on the countertop, the chances are that it will have to remain in the danger zone temperature for longer, which can lead to the poultry becoming dangerous to eat.
Is cooking a frozen chicken a good idea?
It is possible to cook the frozen chicken right out of the freezer without thawing it, but this method will work best if you are making a slow-cooked dish like a stew or curry with it.
When cooking a frozen chicken, make sure that you give it about 50% more cooking time than required by the recipe. This will ensure that it is cooked through and is safe to eat.
The safe internal temperature for poultry, according to the USDA, is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure that you check it with a reliable meat thermometer before serving it.
Some tips on thawing chicken
As mentioned earlier, the quick and easy cold and hot water methods for defrosting chicken are suitable only for thin pieces of chicken which require no more than 30 minutes for thawing. Anything bigger than that will take longer and thus is likely to be exposed to harmful bacterial growth.
If you need to defrost a whole bird, use the refrigerator method, but make sure you cook the chicken within the next 48 hours of taking it out of the freezer.
Do not freeze chicken once it has been defrosted. Instead, cook the chicken right after it has been thawed if you want to ensure that it is safe to eat.
If you will be cooking a chicken that has been taken straight out of the freezer, make sure that you use a meat thermometer to check its internal temperature. The safe internal temperature for poultry is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t thaw the chicken in a microwave oven because this can leave part of the chicken frozen while other parts may become cooked and dry during the process. If you do need to use the microwave method for defrosting chicken, make sure you keep checking it every 30 seconds to ensure that it is thawing evenly.
If you are using the hot or water bath defrosting methods, you need to ensure that the wrapped chicken is submerged into the water completely. Use a heavy kitchen utensil or another item if you need to keep the bird under the water.
Taking the chicken out of the freezer in time before having to cook will save you the hassle and panic of finding a quick solution for defrosting it.
Still, there are ways to safely thaw frozen chicken even if you don’t have enough time. Just make sure that you follow our safety tips to prevent risking eating meat that is contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria.
Remember never to leave it on the countertop to thaw, and also that once you have defrosted the chicken, you will need to cook it immediately!
Further Reading: Can You Freeze Fried Chicken?