How to thaw a frozen chicken quickly and safely

I am sure we have all been there – it gets to mid-afternoon and we suddenly realize that the whole chicken we were planning on roasting for dinner is still in the freezer.

So what are you going to do?

You could plan on cooking something else for dinner (assuming that you have some other protein that is not frozen), or you could decide to go out to eat, or you could run to the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken.

Or you could use the one safe way of quickly thawing a frozen chicken.

That is what I am going to show you today.  Simply because last Sunday I forgot to get the chicken out of the freezer….


All you do is take that bird and remove it from any packaging.

Then you place it in a large bowl (a large pan/stockpot would work too), and place that in the sink.

Turn on the cold tap and let the bowl fill with water.  Then turn the flow down until it is just a dribble.  Let the water constantly run into the bowl and overflow.  Make sure the drain is not plugged or you will get a flood!

The constantly running cold water keeps the chicken at a safe temperature.  It may not be the most environmentally friendly (the constant running water), but it is the safest if you need to do it quickly.  And by turning the flow down to the lowest you can without actually turning it off, you are minimizing how much water will be used.  This method works better than some other recommended ones where you don’t have the tap running and you change the entire bowl of water every hour as the constant flow stops the frozen meat from chilling the cold water too much.

Leave the chicken in that cold water until it is totally thawed.  It will take around 30 minutes per lb, but may take longer.   A 4lb chicken could take anything up to 2 hours to defrost, but that is better than it taking 10-12 hours in the refrigerator!  Just keep checking it.

This method does mean that the meat absorbs some water, so if that is a concern, simply leave it in the packaging and place it in the water.  I find that it takes longer to defrost in the packaging though – presumably because the cold water cannot get inside the chicken to defrost it from the inside.  Also, removing the packaging means that you can check inside the chicken for ice.

NEVER try to use warm or hot water to speed up the thawing process, it can lead to bacterial growth and potential food-poisoning.  And NEVER attempt to defrost a chicken at room temperature either.

This method is safe because it keeps the chicken at a cool enough temperature that there will be little to no bacterial growth.

Please note, this is only a safe way to defrost a chicken that will be cooked immediately after thawing.  Please do not try to put the chicken back in the fridge (or freezer!) if you use this method!

This method will work with all forms of poultry (even turkeys although they will take ages to thaw!  Estimate 30-40 minutes per lb as per the chicken).  If you are using frozen chicken portions, I would recommend that you place them in a sealed ziplock bag as they will absorb far more water than a whole chicken will and that can lead to them getting soggy.

This method also works for fish, shrimp and other meats including burgers and steaks.  Just make sure that the small items are sealed in a ziplock bag so that they do not absorb too much water.  Fish and shrimp will defrost especially fast using this method.  I often just dump frozen shrimp in a colander and let the cold water run over them while I am removing any shells…  they defrost in minutes this way.

Yes you could use a microwave, but I personally do not like thawing anything in a microwave.  It has nothing to do with the safety, and everything to to with the risk of partially cooking the foods as microwaves do not heat evenly.  Any hots spots will cause the chicken to be cooked in that area, which will result in overcooking (and dryness) when I put it in the oven.

Shared at Full Plate Thursday 5-8-14

Shared at Thrifty Thursday week 59



5 thoughts on “How to thaw a frozen chicken quickly and safely

  1. I remove all packaging and giblets and place in a gallon Ziploc before freezing. That way it can go straight from the freezer to cooking if need be. It is best done in a crock pot this way but can be used for other cooking methods also. If you do thaw in the fridge it takes a lot less time because it does not have anything inside.

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