How to Thaw a Whole Chicken

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors

  • Microwave safe glass dish

  • Plastic wrap

  • Large container

  • Airtight bag

Thaw a chicken completely so that it cooks evenly.

A frozen whole chicken needs thawed properly before you can cook it. Thawing the chicken in the refrigerator is the recommended method, but it's also the most time-consuming. If you need to thaw a chicken quickly, you can use the microwave or cold water. A whole chicken needs cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit after you thaw it completely to avoid illness.

In Refrigerator

Step 1

Place the whole chicken in the refrigerator. Leave it wrapped and place it on a platter to catch any drippings.

Step 2

Move any items away from the chicken to ensure that it thaws evenly.

Step 3

Leave the chicken in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. The time it takes to thaw the chicken will depend on its says you'll need to allow about five hours per pound, so a five-pound bird would need 25 hours. Check thoroughly to make sure the chicken is completely defrosted--put your hand inside to make sure there are no ice crystals.

In Microwave

Step 1

Cut the packaging off the chicken with scissors and discard it.

Step 2

Place the chicken inside a microwave safe glass dish.

Step 3

Cover the chicken loosely with plastic wrap. Change the "Defrost" setting on the microwave to medium or low to avoid cooking the chicken. Consult the user's manual for your microwave if you are unsure how to use the "Defrost" setting.

Step 4

Enter the weight of the chicken into the microwave when prompted. Defrost the chicken until ice crystals no longer appear in the cavity. If you cannot enter the weight of the chicken, defrost the chicken in 3 to 4 minute intervals.

In Water

Step 1

Fill a sink or a container large enough to submerge the chicken with cold water. The water must cover the whole chicken completely.

Step 2

Place the chicken into an airtight bag to prevent the water from coming into direct contact with the chicken, then place the bag into the water.

Step 3

Replace the water every half hour as needs. Defrosting will require an hour for each pound of chicken.


Always cook a chicken defrosted in the microwave immediately. Do not place it back into the refrigerator or freezer because bacteria will grow.

Do not thaw a whole chicken at room temperature.

Never thaw chicken in warm or hot water. This will provide a breeding ground for bacteria.