How to Safely Defrost Chicken

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Safely defrosting chicken is one way to minimize your family's exposure to foodborne pathogens.
Safely defrosting chicken is one way to minimize your family's exposure to foodborne pathogens. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Foodborne pathogens from raw contaminated chicken can make you and your family sick. For some people, foodborne illness can become severe and even fatal. One way to minimize becoming infected with such potentially dangerous bacteria as Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella is to thaw your frozen chicken properly. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)recognizes only three ways to safely defrost chicken: in your refrigerator, under cold water or in your microwave.

Things You'll Need

  • Frozen chicken
  • Refrigerator
  • Water-tight, plastic, food-safe bag
  • Microwave

Plan your meal ahead of time and transfer your chicken from freezer to refrigerator. According to the USDA, this method of slowly thawing chicken is the best and safest. It can take from several hours to one day to defrost in the refrigerator.

Submerge frozen chicken, either in its original packaging or in a watertight plastic bag, in a large bowl filled with cold water. Replace the water with clean cold water approximately every 30 minutes. If time does not allow for you to defrost your chicken in the refrigerator, thawing it it using this method is safe and it cuts thaw time to about one to three hours.

Place chicken, several parts at a time, onto a microwave-safe dish and into your microwave. Use your microwave's defrost setting to thaw the chicken thoroughly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid using a slow cooker or your microwave to cook frozen chicken. You can, however, cook frozen chicken on your stove or in your oven. Adjust your time accordingly, as frozen chicken takes approximately 50 percent longer to reach a safe serving temperature than thawed chicken. If you defrost your chicken using your microwave, it is important to cook the chicken immediately after thawing. Even on the defrost setting, microwave ovens can partially cook part of the chicken to a temperature in which bacteria can thrive and multiply. Avoid soaking, rinsing or defrosting chicken directly in water without first placing it in a food-safe plastic bag. Direct contact with the chicken can contaminate water, which can lead to cross-contamination of kitchen surfaces and utensils.

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