How to Defrost Chicken: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Defrost Chicken

Defrosting chicken is a crucial step in preparing safe and delicious meals. Thawing chicken properly ensures that it cooks evenly and reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to defrost chicken safely, using various methods.

There are 6 Steps to defrosting chicken

Refrigerator Thawing: The Safest Method

  • Place the chicken in a leak-proof plastic bag or airtight container to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Set the chicken in the lowest part of your refrigerator to maintain a consistent, safe temperature (ideally below 40°F or 4°C).
  • Allow approximately 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds (1.8-2.3 kg) of chicken.
  • Once thawed, use the chicken within 1-2 days or refreeze it.

Cold Water Bath: A Faster Alternative

  • Seal the chicken in a waterproof plastic bag, ensuring no water can seep in.
  • Fill a large bowl or basin with cold water, submerge the chicken, and change the water every 30 minutes to maintain a safe temperature.
  • Allow about 30 minutes of thawing time per pound (0.45 kg).
  • Cook the chicken immediately after thawing.

Microwave Defrosting: For Quick Thawing

  • Use the microwave’s “defrost” or low-power setting to thaw chicken.
  • Remove any metal packaging or parts (e.g., metal clips) before microwaving.
  • Follow the microwave’s instructions for defrosting poultry, typically requiring 4-7 minutes per pound (0.45 kg).
  • Cook the chicken immediately after microwave defrosting to prevent bacterial growth.

Cooking from Frozen: A Time-Saving Option

  • You can cook chicken frozen, although it may require longer cooking times.
  • Preheat your oven or skillet and place the frozen chicken directly in the cooking vessel.
  • Add 50% more cooking time compared to the original recipe for thawed chicken.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Avoid Defrosting Methods to Steer Clear Of

  • Avoid defrosting chicken at room temperature, as this can promote bacterial growth and contamination.
  • Do not use hot water to thaw chicken, as it can lead to uneven thawing and increase the risk of bacterial growth.

Safety Precautions

  • Always wash your hands and cooking utensils thoroughly after handling raw chicken.
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store chicken in the original packaging or airtight containers to prevent leaks and cross-contamination in the refrigerator.


Can I defrost chicken at room temperature?

No, it is not recommended to defrost chicken at room temperature. Leaving chicken out at room temperature can allow harmful bacteria to multiply rapidly, leading to foodborne illnesses. To defrost chicken safely, use one of the following methods: refrigerator thawing, cold water bath, or microwave defrosting. These methods ensure that the chicken stays at a safe temperature throughout the thawing process.

Can I cook chicken without thawing it first?

Yes, you can cook chicken from a frozen state, but it will require a longer cooking time compared to thawed chicken. Preheat your oven, skillet, or grill and place the frozen chicken directly into the cooking vessel. Add approximately 50% more cooking time than the original recipe suggests for thawed chicken. Ensure that the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it’s safe to eat. Using a food thermometer is essential to monitor the temperature.

How long can I keep thawed chicken in the refrigerator before cooking?

Once chicken is thawed in the refrigerator, it should be cooked within 1-2 days. Thawed chicken can be safely stored in the refrigerator for this limited time period. If you find that you won’t be able to cook the chicken within this timeframe, you can refreeze it, but keep in mind that refreezing can affect the chicken’s texture and quality. It’s crucial to label the chicken with the date of thawing to track its freshness.


Defrosting chicken safely is crucial for maintaining food safety and preparing tasty dishes. Whether you choose the slow and steady refrigerator method or the quicker cold water bath or microwave method, following these guidelines will help ensure that your chicken is ready to be cooked to perfection while minimizing the risk of foodborne illness.

Roger Walker
Roger Walker
Roger is a long-time homeowner with an enthusiasm for DIY, gardening, and design. He has over eight years of experience as a lifestyle editor and has worked with some of the top brands in the industry. Roger's goal is to help people make their homes comfort, functional, and beautiful- all while saving money.

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