Here’s How to Thaw Frozen Chicken Safely

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Abbey Sharp, RD, blogger and author of the Mindful Glow Cookbook, tells SELF that she prefers this method because it “requires the least amount of fussing and attention” and “helps maintain the texture and integrity without the chicken meat getting waterlogged.”

The USDA and Dr. Tierno also agree that this method is safest says because it eliminates the risk of your chicken entering the Danger Zone. That also means it’s the slowest, though, so you’ve got to think ahead a little. While the exact length of time required depends on things like the temperature your fridge is set to, where in the fridge you put the chicken, and the size of the chicken breasts, you can generally expect to budget at least one day if not two, according to the USDA. (So if you want to make chicken for dinner on Tuesday night, for instance, you’ll want to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge on Sunday night or Monday.)

You do have some leeway with the timing, though. Once thawed, the chicken will stay good in the fridge for a day or two before cooking, per the USDA. And if dinner plans change in that time period, it’s totally safe to put the chicken back in the freezer without cooking it. (More on that in a bit.)

How can you thaw frozen chicken fast?

If you’re wondering how to thaw chicken fast, though, that’s a slightly different story. Obviously, planning a day ahead isn’t always feasible. If you find yourself in a poultry pinch, consider treating your chicken like an Olympic athlete and embrace the cold water soak. Fair warning, though: The cold water method requires “a lot of babysitting,” which is why Sharp says she only uses it sparingly.

Here’s what you do, as the USDA lays it out: First, either leave the chicken in the airtight packaging it came in, or put it in a leak-proof plastic bag. This prevents bacteria from the surrounding air or water from getting into the meat. (And yes, that also means you shouldn’t be washing chicken either.) Then, submerge it in cold tap water, which you need to change out every 30 minutes or so as the chicken thaws and the water warms up. Set a timer on your phone if you know you’re likely to forget what you were doing.

How long the whole water bath thing takes depends on the water temperature and the amount of chicken. A pound of chicken breast might take just an hour or less, while a three or four pound whole chicken will take two or three hours, the USDA says. Cook it right away once it’s thawed. 

Can you defrost chicken in the microwave?

People often look to the microwave when wondering how to defrost chicken the quickest way possible. But the microwave method barely makes the cut, because although it is speedy, it can also be risky if not done right.


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