How Do You Defrost Chicken Without Ruining It? 4 Ways

Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2021
how do you defrost chicken without ruining it
Defrosting chicken properly is important, as poor preparation can lead to food poisoning. Here are 4 ways to defrost chicken safely

Defrosting chicken properly is important, as poor preparation can lead to food poisoning

According to food safety experts, raw poultry can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days and in the freezer for up to 9 months. Cooked poultry can be refrigerated for 3-4 days and kept frozen for 2-6 months.

4 ways to defrost chicken safely

When it comes to defrosting chicken, it is difficult to strike the perfect balance between getting the timing right and preserving the quality of the chicken.

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

  1. Refrigerator
  2. Cold water
  3. Microwave
  4. Cooking without thawing

1. Refrigerator (12 hours)

  • This is by far the best way to thaw poultry because it avoids suddenly exposing the meat to warmer temperatures. This is better for both safety and texture.
  • Simply remove the chicken from the freezer up to 2 days before cooking it, place it on a plate, and put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

2. Cold water (2 hours)

  • Place the frozen meat in a tightly sealed, leak-proof bag and then in a bowl of cold water, making sure the meat is completely submerged.
  • To ensure that the water remains cold, change it every 30-45 minutes.
  • Depending on the cut, the chicken may thaw as fast as 1 hour (ground chicken, for example) or as long as several hours. Cook immediately after thawing.

3. Microwave

  • While this is the quickest method, the chicken needs to be cooked right away after thawing. 
  • It is not recommended to place the defrosted chicken in the fridge after it has been thawed in the microwave. It is possible that it will become contaminated or contaminate other items in the fridge.
  • Microwave thawing may cause the chicken to turn slightly gray.

4. Cook (if you have no time)

  • You can cook frozen chicken without thawing if you simply don’t have the time. However, it needs about 50% more cooking time.
  • Cooking frozen chicken also causes excess moisture to be released. This method works best for recipes that call for braising or slow cooking rather than sautéing or frying.

What are the dangers of improperly thawed chicken?

Improperly thawed chicken can result in foodborne illness. The USDA has identified four strains of bacteria that are most likely to be found in raw chicken:

If chicken is not properly thawed, these bacteria can make you sick and in some cases even kill you. To reduce the risk of food poisoning, it is critical to use proper thawing techniques as described in this article and cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Safety precautions you should take with frozen chicken include the following:

  • Do not thaw frozen meat on the counter. Bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive at room temperature.
  • As a rule, frozen chicken should not be left out for more than 2 hours. To be safe, simply use a thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken. If the temperature of the chicken remains below 45 degrees F, it can still be cooked.
  • Do not rinse the chicken with water, as doing so can spread bacteria around the kitchen, potentially contaminating other food items.

Does defrosted chicken taste different?

Since meat typically contains about 70% water, freezing and defrosting can affect the flavor.

When exposed to temperatures below 32°F, ice crystals form around the meat, destroying the cell walls. Defrosting then causes the meat to lose water, which reduces its flavor and tenderness. As a result, the concentration of mineral salts rises in some areas, hastening fat oxidation processes.

Flash freezing medium pieces of meat at very low temperatures (−4 degrees F) results in smaller ice crystals, limiting these harmful effects.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2021
Image Source: DronG / Getty Images

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WebMD. The Cold, Hard Truth About Defrosting.

Spoon University. 5 Foolproof Methods to Safely Defrost a Frozen Chicken.

Yancey J. Safe Methods for Defrosting Meat. American Meat Science Association.