How to Defrost Chicken Fast and Safe (The Best Methods)

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Have you ever planned a lovely dinner and realized you forgot to defrost the meat? As you look at the frozen chicken, you wonder if you need to dash to the store and purchase a fresh batch to avoid keeping everyone waiting hungrily.

In case you are wondering, yes, there is a way to defrost your chicken safely and quickly!

Therefore, do not let your frozen chicken hold back your dinner preparations. Without breaking a sweat, you can defrost your chicken in record time, and still have plenty of time left to prepare dinner.

In this article, we have assembled four USDA approved methods that will help you defrost your chicken, along with some tips to help you do so safely. Each method has good and bad sides, and some are better than others if you don’t want to lower the quality of your meat.


Why You Need to Defrost Your Chicken Safely?

how to defrost chicken faster

It’s almost dinnertime, and your chicken is still a pile of ice. Food safety often becomes an afterthought, partly because many people do not take food-borne diseases seriously until they come down with something.

Food-borne illness can be potentially deadly. According to, about 1 in 6 Americans will suffer a form of food poisoning.

Learning how to defrost chicken properly will only take a couple of minutes. It will not only make your meals taste great – you will also feel good after eating it.

The Dangers of Improperly Thawed Chicken

Food poisoning is dangerous, and a wrongly thawed chicken can make you very sick. Four strains of bacteria have been identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as most likely found in raw chicken. They are:

These bacteria will not just make you sick, but it can also kill you. It is therefore essential to follow proper thawing practices as described in this article and cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165ºF (74ºC) to reduce the risk of food poisoning.


Do not thaw your meat on the kitchen counter. At room temperature food poisoning causing bacteria will thrive.

Do not rinse your chicken under water. The process can spread bacteria around your kitchen, which may lead to contamination.

According to the USDA, there are four safe ways to thaw food:

  • Microwave thawing
  • Refrigerator thawing
  • Cold water thawing
  • Cooking without thawing

Things You Need to Know Before Defrosting Your Chicken

There are things you need to know before defrosting your chicken.

First, it will take longer to thaw a whole chicken than chicken pieces, and boneless cuts always thaw faster than bone-in pieces. Chicken pieces thaw quickly if they are not frozen into a large lump.

And finally, to quickly thaw your meat, you need to get rid of the styrofoam tray if your meat is kept in one. The tray is an insulator and will slow your chicken’s defrosting time.

Read on to learn the many ways of thawing your chicken, and see which method will best work for your meal plans.

1. Microwave Thawing

how to defrost chicken fast and safe

Microwaves heat things fast. Therefore, it is the perfect appliance to thaw your chicken quickly. Plus, microwaves come with an automatic defrost setting.

Despite coming with a defrost setting, many people end up with half frozen and half cooked chicken, ruining their dinner.

If you tried defrosting your chicken in your microwave and failed, do not give up. This appliance can work wonders when it comes to the quick thaw of chicken pieces. The results will only be good if you decide to ditch the automatic defrost setting. Instead, pick the program to run, and set the time yourself for the excellent results.

This method is not ideal for thawing a whole chicken. A whole chicken can't thaw evenly in a microwave, without getting cooked on the outside.

To start, remove all the chicken packaging and place it into a microwavable plate or bowl.

To thaw bone-in chicken pieces, for about 2 minutes, nuke the pieces at 50% power, then separate and flip the pieces over. Lower the power setting to 30% and continue to microwave, and then flip 1 minute at a time until you have a chicken thawed enough to cook it. This process will take about 1 minute to thaw 1.5 pounds of bone-in chicken.

If you want to thaw boneless cuts, set the microwave power at 30% power, to avoid cooking your chicken by accident, then nuke for 2 minutes. Separate the pieces and flip, then reduce the power to 20% and keep separating and flipping to get thawed boneless cuts. This process will take about 1 minute to thaw 0.5 pounds of boneless chicken.

If you ditch the automatic defrost settings, your microwave can thaw your chicken pieces in just a few minutes without partially cooking them.

2. Use a Refrigerator

This method requires preparation, but it is the most recommended. It is the easiest way to defrost your chicken, and will typically take a day to thaw. If time is on your side, this method is foolproof and requires little personal attention.

Defrosting time will depend on whether you are defrosting a whole chicken or pieces. It can take between several hours to a couple of days to fully thaw chicken in the fridge. Once your chicken thaws, cook it within a day or two, or it may start to spoil.

You do not need to remove the chicken from its packaging, but the thawing process will be faster if you ditch the styrofoam tray. Place the wrapped or unwrapped chicken in a casserole dish or bowl. This will prevent any juices from sipping and contaminating the other food in your fridge. Ensure the chicken is well covered if unwrapped. Place it on the lowest rack in your fridge. Then wait for it to thaw!

3. Cold Water Thawing

This method will take two to three hours max.

  • Place the frozen chicken in a leak-proof plastic bag. This is to prevent water from damaging the chicken tissue, and other bacteria from infecting the food.
  • Get a large kitchen bowl or using your kitchen sink, fill it with cold water, and submerge the packaged chicken. Change the water every 30 minutes.

4. Cooking Without Thawing

how to defrost chicken fast without microwave

Sometimes you just can’t wait for the chicken to thaw. Can you cook frozen chicken as it is?

Well, according to the USDA, you can! In fact, it is perfectly safe to cook chicken without thawing it on a stove, or oven.

The trick is to cook your chicken completely without over-cooking the outside or drying it out. And the cooking process has to be quick, so it doesn’t spend too much cooking-time in the danger zone.

To cook a frozen chicken, you need to pick the right cooking method for the type of chicken you are working with. Bone-in chicken pieces are more challenging to cook from a frozen state. Frozen boneless thighs and breasts are the easiest.

To cook a whole frozen chicken, place the giblet-free chicken in a pressure cooker. Add at least a cup of liquid (lemon juice, wine, beer, broth, water, etc.) and season it with your spices or herbs. Lock the cooker lids, set your timer for 25 minutes, and use the high-pressure program.

Once it’s cooked, allow the pressure to diminish on its own (do not try a quick release). Remove the chicken and serve with the juices left in the pot, or convert those juices into a fantastic gravy or sauce!


Even if you forgot to defrost the meat in time for cooking, you could still have chicken for dinner. With any of the four methods above, you will get dinner ready in a reasonable amount of time, without jeopardizing your family’s health.

Whatever the cut of meat chicken you plan to cook, there is a perfect technique for defrosting every kind of chicken.

From whole chicken to wings, you won’t mess things up if you follow any of the above tips, plus they are safe and healthy chicken defrosting methods. Let’s hear your thoughts and chicken defrosting experiences in the comment box below.

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