How to Defrost Chicken Fast and Easy [Guide]

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We live in a fast world, that’s a fact. Another fact is that we highly rely on frozen products in our daily life. I mean, it’s not practical to fit a supermarket visit in our busy schedules every single day just to get fresh food. That’s why frozen food, specifically chicken is now common in any household. And with frozen chicken comes great responsibility.

Because we are so tempted to find the easiest and quickest way to thaw the chicken, what we don’t take into consideration is our safety. The method of defrosting can greatly affect the quality and safety of the defrosted chicken. I am not here to guilt-trip you for choosing the quickest way to defrost your chicken breasts. Quite the opposite actually, I am here to guide you on how to defrost your chicken through many different ways, so you get to choose the most suitable for you!

Is it necessary to defrost chicken?

Well, Theoretically speaking cooking frozen chicken doesn’t necessarily pause a health hazard. However, practically if you tried to cook chicken while it’s still frozen, there is a 99% chance that the inside of the meat would be still cold, raw and chewy, maybe even bloody. Now, that’s not healthy, and most likely will cause serious infections. It’s stated by the FDA that the internal temp. of the chicken should be at least 165°F for it to be considered safe to eat.

Best ways to properly defrost your chicken fast and safe?

Here are the best ways of defrosting chicken according to the USDA. They vary according to the time taken and safety.

Defrosting chicken using the fridge

It might be the easiest as well as the safest way to defrost your chickens. All you got to do is to move the frozen chicken from the freezer to the fridge and leave it there till it’s warm enough.

Steps of defrosting:

  1. Make sure the chicken is placed in a zip-lock bag.
  2. Take it out of the freezer and place it on the lower shelf of the fridge.
  3. It should be ready to be cooked in one to two days.

Now, I know what you are all thinking now, and I kind of agree. It does take a long time, maybe a day and maybe even more, but it is the easiest and safest anyways.

Defrosting chicken using cold water

It all depends on using cold water that results in the quickest way of defrosting your chicken. I think you already guessed it by now.

Steps of defrosting:

  1. Place your chicken pieces in an airtight bag and make sure it’s closed well.
  2. Fill a deep bowl with cold water or warm water with ice cubes.
  3. Transfer the bag to the bowl and leave your chicken to thaw.
  4. It could take from 1-3 hours according to the amount and size of the frozen pieces. Make sure to break apart all the frozen pieces and to change the water every 30 minutes.

This method ensures a quick way to defrost the meat. So that you won’t have to wait overnight for it to be ready to be cooked.

Defrosting your chicken using the Microwave:

Although it’s not safe as the fridge method, yet it’s quick and quite practical to do. The most important note that you should keep in mind is that you need to cook it immediately after thawing.

Steps of defrosting:

  1. Transfer the chicken from the zip-lock bag and any packaging to a microwavable plate.
  2. Place the plate containing the chicken in the microwave.
  3. Start your microwave at 30% power and leave the chicken for 2 minutes per pound of chicken weight.

Is it considered safe to defrost chicken in the microwave?

Well, if you followed all the right steps of using a microwave to defrost your chicken, then this method might just be the second safest method of defrosting after the fridge method.

Since the chance of bacterial growth on the defrosted chicken is always great. Keep in mind that the thawed chicken using the microwave method can’t be left out of the fridge after thawing for longer than 2 hours. That’s the time span the thawed chicken can be left for until cooked.

How long does it take to defrost chicken in the microwave?

There are two factors that greatly affect the defrosting time of the chicken in the microwave. The power of your microwave and the size and number of chicken pieces that need to be defrosted. But generally speaking, it usually takes 2 minutes for each pound of chicken weight. Separate chicken pieces can take a longer time, as they require flipping halfway through, and because they might need to be defrosted on several rounds in the microwave.

A whole chicken can take from 10-15 minutes to defrost.

How To Defrost Chicken Breasts In The Microwave?

Since chicken breasts usually don’t have any bones. Defrosting them in the microwave can turn into full-on cooking if given a chance. That’s why it’s important to follow these steps:

  1. Start by taking the chicken pieces out from the Styrofoam plate or any packaging it’s held in.
  2. Place it on a microwavable plate. Make sure enough spaces are left between each piece so that they could cook equally, then transfer the plate to the microwave.
  3. Adjust the microwave settings to either “defrost” or 30% of the power of the microwave. Check them after 1 minute, flip and then back for another minute.
  4. Keep on defrosting them in a 1-min interval while flipping them, to make sure they are not being cooked just defrosting.
  5. Continue with the rest of the chicken breasts you have left without overcrowding the microwave.

How To Defrost A Whole Chicken In The Microwave?

  1. Start by taking the chicken out from the Styrofoam plate or any packaging it’s held in.
  2. Place it in a microwavable plate, then transfer the plate to the microwave.
  3. Adjust the microwave settings to either “defrost” or 30% of the power of the microwave.
  4. Each pound should take about 2 minutes, adjust the time accordingly.
  5. Once the whole chicken is defrosted, cook it immediately.

How To Defrost Chicken Nuggets In The Microwave?

With chicken nuggets, you have two options:

Either cook them immediately without defrosting, or you can defrost them easily using a microwave. And here’s how:

  1. Start by taking the chicken nuggets any packaging it’s held in.
  2. Place it on a microwavable plate. Make sure enough spaces are left between each chicken nugget so that they could cook equally, then transfer the plate to the microwave after aligning them in a single layer.
  3. Adjust the microwave settings to either “defrost” or 30% of the power of the microwave. Check them after 1 minute, flip and then back for another minute.
  4. Keep checking them every one minute to make sure they don’t start cooking instead of defrosting.
  5. Once they defrost, start cooking them immediately.

Great Tips For Defrosting Chicken In The Microwave:

  • Constantly check the chicken in the microwave so that they don’t stay for too long and dry out or start cooking instead of defrosting.
  • Ensure the removal of all the packaging before you place them in the microwave.
  • Make sure the power of the microwave is not too high or too low for the chicken to defrost.
  • In case of defrosting separate pieces. Separate them from each other once they start to defrost, so that they can defrost equally.
  • Don’t leave the defrosted chicken pieces for a long time outside of the fridge. Cook them immediately.

Can chicken be defrosted on the counter?

No, it’s highly discouraged to attempt to defrost your chicken on the counter. As that means defrosting at room temperature, which is about 68°F (20°C), which means bacteria will have a blast at that temperature. It’s the perfect temperature for bacterial growth, hence, not safe.

Why do thawing techniques matter?

It’s true that the heat used for cooking the chicken or any type of meat, in general, is in fact effective in killing the bacteria that commonly inhabit chicken. However, what we are worried about is not the bacteria itself, but rather its toxins. These are the bi-products that result from the reproduction of the bacteria and make no mistake, these could possibly be fatal.

That’s why we must avoid the temperature range of 40–140°F (4.4–60°C) where bacteria usually thrive in. Like E.Coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Staph. aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, and of course Salmonella.

It’s a common misconception that you would know whether this meat is actually bad or not from its smell. And that’s because these bacteria don’t usually cause spoilage, not even when there are inhabiting the meat. So, your only guarantee is actually properly defrosting the meat. Especially if the ones eating this meat are either over 65 years, under 5 years old, Immuno-compromised or pregnant. No risks should be taken.

Recent studies suggest that one of the complications of some food illnesses is irritable bowel syndrome!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to quickly defrost chicken?

The Microwave could be the quickest safe method to defrost your chicken, only if you followed the important notes we discussed earlier.

Can I skip the defrosting step and cook chicken from frozen?

While it’s not recommended, you can still do it but it will take a longer cooking time by almost 50%. And the results won’t be that great. The chicken will be tough and dry from the outside. That’s why defrosting is always the best way to go.

Is it bad to defrost chicken fast using hot water?

It might seem like a tempting fast method to effectively defrost the chicken, as it doesn’t cook the meat. Yet, it’s not really considered safe and not yet approved by the FDA, that’s why I don’t prefer it.

In conclusion:

If you want to go for safe and not worry about any of the risks of food-borne illnesses, then go for the fridge method without hesitation. But I know it’s not that simple, as not everybody has the time to wait for 1-2 days for the meat to defrost, that’s why the next best thing is the microwave when adjusted at “defrost” setting or using cold water.

But, keep in mind, if you will go with these quick methods, then you need to cook the meat immediately after thawing.


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