July 19, 2024
Learn how to safely thaw frozen chicken with our step-by-step guide, common mistakes to avoid, and tips for preparing the chicken and storing leftovers. Discover alternatives to thawing frozen chicken, plus advice on batch-cooking and saving time and money.


It’s a common scenario – you come home after a long day of work, only to realize that the chicken you planned to cook for dinner is still frozen solid. Or perhaps you forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer in time for it to thaw for a meal. Thawing frozen chicken is a task that can be tricky, and not doing it safely can lead to foodborne illness. In this article, we’ll help you navigate through the process of thawing frozen chicken, covering everything from different methods for thawing chicken to common mistakes to avoid and alternatives to consider.

How to Safely Thaw Frozen Chicken

Thawing frozen chicken safely is essential to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria. There are several methods for thawing chicken, including:


The best way to thaw frozen chicken is by leaving it in the fridge for a certain amount of time depending on its weight. The general rule is to allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of chicken. This method is the safest and the most effective way to thaw chicken. By thawing in the fridge, the chicken will remain at a safe and consistent temperature.

Cold Water

If you don’t have enough time to thaw your chicken in the fridge, the second-best approach is thawing in cold water. Place the frozen chicken in a sealable bag and submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed. This method takes less time, approximately 30 minutes per pound of chicken, but it requires attentive supervision, and you must make sure to seal the chicken properly in the bag to avoid contaminating the water.


Thawing chicken in the microwave is a common shortcut, but it can be difficult to avoid partially cooking the chicken in the process. Place the frozen chicken in a microwave-safe dish and use the defrost function, which usually takes 5-7 minutes per pound of chicken or according to your microwave’s manual. Be sure to cook the chicken immediately after thawing in the microwave so that it doesn’t sit at room temperature for more than two hours.

Regardless of which method you use to thaw chicken, there are several tips to ensure the best texture and flavor:

  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper or your preferred blend of herbs and spices before cooking;
  • Pat dry the chicken with paper towels to remove excess moisture;
  • Avoid refreezing thawed chicken, which can negatively impact its quality and safety.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

There are several common mistakes that are frequently made when thawing chicken that can cause foodborne illness. Avoiding these mistakes can prevent unpleasant health concerns:

  • Leaving chicken at room temperature for too long: If thawing chicken in cold water, make sure to change the water every 30 minutes and to submerge the chicken entirely to avoid some parts being thawed in warm water and others in cold water, a process which encourages bacterial growth.
  • Not properly sealing chicken during thawing: Keeping chicken entirely submerged in a close and sealed plastic bag is imperative during the thawing process to avoid any bacteria contamination.
  • Using hot water: Hot water can be tempting when you’re in a rush, but it is very dangerous. Hot water can warm the surface of the chicken too quickly before the middle is fully thawed, leading to a breeding ground for bacteria.

To avoid these and other common mistakes, make sure to stick to the recommended thawing methods mentioned above, follow guidelines strictly, and always wash your hands and equipment.

Thawing Fresh vs Frozen Chicken

While thawing fresh chicken isn’t typically a concern, it’s essential to know how to thaw it if needed. Fresh chicken generally goes through less processing, meaning it is more vulnerable to bacterial contamination.

When it comes to thawing chicken, the methods are the same, whether it is fresh or frozen. In essence, remove it from the packaging, and follow the recommended thawing methods. If you have fresh chicken that you may not be using immediately, consider freezing it properly to maintain its quality and safety by storing it in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag made for freezing.

Additionally, different cuts of chicken may require different thawing methods. For example, chicken wings are smaller and might thaw slightly faster than chicken breasts or thighs.

Finally, once thawed, you can store leftover chicken in the refrigerator for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to four months. Make sure to label and date the containers, and mark them as ‘cooked’ or ‘raw’ chicken.

Preparing Thawed Chicken for Cooking

Once your chicken is thawed, it’s essential to prime it for cooking correctly. It is best to cook chicken right after thawing to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria or viruses.

When preparing chicken, it’s important to follow preparation tips to ensure food safety:

  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches the appropriate temperature;
  • Cook chicken chopped or diced in a skillet at medium heat for 8-10 minutes;
  • Roasting chicken in the oven takes 30-40 minutes until golden brown in a 180°C oven;
  • Grilling chicken over high heat is recommended for about 5-6 minutes per side.

In addition to these cooking tips, we suggest considering some easy-to-make chicken recipes, such as chicken fajitas, oven-roasted chicken, or simple chicken curry.

If you’re not planning on cooking your chicken immediately, store it in the refrigerator, covering it with plastic wrap or placing it in a sealed container. If you want to freeze it for later use, store it in an airtight container or a sealed plastic bag made for freezing.

Alternatives to Thawing Frozen Chicken

When you’re in a rush or don’t want to worry about thawing frozen chicken properly, consider looking for ready-to-cook chicken options. Most grocery stores nowadays offer various fully cooked frozen chicken options, such as grilled, roasted, or breaded and ready to be baked. These are safe and convenient alternatives to thawing your chicken.

If you prefer homemade meals, an excellent alternative to thawed chicken is to batch-cook larger amounts of chicken and freeze them for later use. Chicken can be used in different meals, such as salads, soups, or tacos. Cooking and freezing it beforehand can save you time and money while ensuring a healthy and safe meal.

Compared to thawing frozen chicken, preparing your chicken meals ahead of time is an excellent option for meal prepping and getting organized in the kitchen.


Thawing frozen chicken may seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge, it can be easy and safe. Knowing how to thaw correctly can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses, ensuring a healthier and safer meal. Remember to store your thawed chicken properly, cook it, and enjoy!

By following the steps in this guide and taking into account all the tips we’ve shared, you’ll soon become an expert in thawing and preparing frozen chicken, whether you choose to soak it in the fridge, place it in cold water, zap it in the microwave, or opt for ready-made options.

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