Fresh whole chickens or boneless breasts can be marinated in various ways to bring the best dinner to your table. But while you're arranging all your spices and deciding on which side dishes would go best, a frozen chicken sits in the freezer waiting to be thawed. If you're pressed for time, are you allowed to thaw chicken in hot water? How about the microwave? How long does it take to thaw it out in the refrigerator? Take a few deep breaths because we're here to inform you on the proper ways to thaw frozen chicken.

In The Refrigerator

an empty refrigerator shelf

Time: 24 hours

A tried and true method for thawing frozen chicken is to place it in the refrigerator. While this method is perhaps the best known among chefs and at-home cooks, it will also take you the longest, so be sure to plan ahead. The basic rule of thumb (according to the USDA) is that it will take you five hours to thaw one pound of frozen chicken. Realistically, even pieces of chicken could take an entire day to thaw out. So, if you just got home from work and you're wondering which thawing method to use, this might best be saved for a rainy day.

You'll also want to ensure that the temperature in the fridge is sitting at a comfortable 35 - 40 degrees F.

Uncooked thawed poultry can safely sit in the fridge for a day or two before it needs to be cooked.

In A Bowl Of Cold Water

bowl of water

Time: 2 - 4 hours

While you may have been told that hot water speeds up the thawing process it also promotes bacteria to form. If you need to thaw frozen chicken the best water temperature to use is cold.

Wrap your chicken in a leak-proof bag and place it in a bowl filled with cold water. Should your chicken already be in a bag, stick it in a Ziploc bag just in case because you don't want any juices leaking out. It's recommended by the USDA that you change out the water every 30 minutes or so. You'll want to swap out the water to ensure that the temperature remains cool. Depending on the size of your chicken or the weight of your pieces this method can take you anywhere from two to four hours. It's also recommended that if you're thawing frozen turkey this way, you should time it so you thaw 30 minutes per pound.

If you decide to go with this method you'll need to cook the chicken immediately.

In The Microwave

woman pressing buttons on microwave

Time: 2 minutes

With a short time frame like that, it can be hard not to gravitate towards this one over any others! This method is a bit tricker so there are just a few pointers for you before you toss your chicken in the microwave.

If your chicken is prepackaged, unwrap it and place the pieces in a large enough bowl to accommodate everything. Cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap, then stick it in the microwave and hit the defrost button. You should aim to defrost for only 2 - 2 1/2 minutes at a time and then pull the chicken out to check its status. Make sure that your chicken doesn't start to cook because you don't want it to become warm and grow bacteria. Flip the pieces over to ensure that it's thawed properly and doesn't start to cook in the microwave.

Be advised that you will need to cook chicken thawed in the microwave immediately.

raw whole chicken and veggies on a cutting board

Things To Remember

Chicken is a meat you want to make sure you cook correctly to avoid salmonella or any bacterial growth. Before you plop those pieces into cold water or even if you choose to thaw frozen chicken another way, here are some pointers to remember.

Do Not Thaw At Room Temperature

Though other meats can rest easy at room temperature, chicken needs to be thawed with one of the above methods.

Poultry needs to avoid a range of temperatures when thawing. The USDA has dubbed these temperatures the "Danger Zone" temperatures (though it would be cool if Kenny Loggins was behind this). Anywhere between 40 - 140 degrees F falls under this label due to the spread of bacteria that occurs within the range. If you're wondering which temperature is best to thaw frozen chicken you should aim for 40 degrees F maximum.

You Can Cook Without Thawing

It's possible to cook your poultry without thawing it out first, but the cooking time will take significantly longer. It's perfectly safe to remove food from the freezer and start cooking, just be prepared for a longer cooking time.

Gone are the days of wondering which methods are best to thaw frozen chicken! These three easy methods will keep your poultry safe and dinner tasting great.

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