How to defrost chicken

Learn how to defrost chicken quickly and safely, in three ways

how to defrost chicken: chicken breast
(Image credit: Getty)

Learning how to defrost chicken safely is very important: do it wrong, and you risk food poisoning. Cooking defrosted chicken is also easier and takes less time than cooking from frozen, which can often result in the middle remaining raw. The following defrosting methods are easy and safe: choose one depending on how much time you have.

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1. How to defrost chicken in the fridge

Defrosting chicken in the fridge overnight is by far the safest method, but you will need to remember to do it in advance, as it will take at least six hours (ideally eight). Put the chicken into a large sandwich bag and seal. Place inside an extra large mixing bowl and on the bottom shelf of your fridge.  

2. How to defrost chicken in water

Follow the same instructions as for the fridge method, but fill the bowl with cold water beforehand. Make sure the bad is completely sealed to avoid water getting inside. Always use cold water – using hot water creates a breeding ground for bacteria by raising the temperature of the raw chicken. 

3. How to defrost chicken in the microwave

To defrost chicken in the microwave, place it on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on the defrost setting for no more than five minutes at a time. You'll need to repeat this process until the chicken is thawed, but make sure you don't overdo it: if the chicken begins to cook while in the microwave, it won't be safe. You'll also need to cook your chicken as soon as you've defrost it to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. 

How do I know that the chicken is defrosted?

With smaller pieces such as chicken breasts, it's very easy to tell by just feeling them with your hands: once the centre no longer feels hard to the touch, your chicken is ready to be cooked. Whole chickens will need to be sliced into to check whether any parts in the middle are still frozen solid, in which case you'll need to continue defrosting. 

I don't have time to defrost, can I cook chicken from frozen?

Cooking chicken from frozen is absolutely fine, but you will have to add half the cooking time again. So, if a typical chicken breast takes 25 minutes to cook, you'll need to cook yours for around 40 minutes. If cooking from frozen, we advise cooking your chicken in plenty of sauce/butter/oil; otherwise, you can easily end up with chicken that's burnt on the outside but still frozen on the inside. 

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Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.