Thawing chicken can be a minefield, and the method you choose has to be safe and convenient.
It also depends on whether you’re defrosting a whole bird or chicken pieces, as each one is thawed a different way.
Larger cuts of chicken, such as a crown or whole bird should be thawed in a refrigerator, and smaller pieces will thaw well in a bowl of cold water or in a microwave.
Don’t thaw your chicken on a counter at room temperature, or in a bowl of hot water, as these methods allow bacteria to grow.
Thawing in the Refrigerator
Thawing your chicken in the refrigerator is the most reliable and safe way to do it. The key is to plan ahead, especially if you are thawing a large chicken or a large amount of chicken pieces. A couple of pounds of chicken breasts can take up to a day to fully thaw in the fridge, and a whole bird may take two days.
Once defrosted using this method, you can keep the chicken in the fridge for another day or two before cooking.
Thawing in Water
A frozen chicken can be tightly sealed in leak proof zipper bags and placed in a bowl of cold water to thaw. Don’t use hot water – as well as encouraging bacteria, hot water can start to actually “cook” the chicken meat before the middle of it is thawed.
You can add ice cubes to the cold water to bring the temperature down further, and change the water every half hour or so to make sure it stays cold.
Ground chicken can thaw in an hour this way, and a small amount of boneless chicken may take one to two hours. Larger amounts and bigger pieces could take a few hours to thaw properly.
When thawing pieces in a bag, separate them when they have thawed enough so that you can pull them apart, then reseal the bag and put it back in the water.
Once meat has been defrosted this way, it has to be cooked immediately.
Thawing in the Microwave
Some microwaves have a special chicken-thawing setting, but if you only have a defrost setting you can still thaw your chicken this way – it just takes more effort on your part.
Set the microwave to defrost, then check on the chicken every few minutes to see if it’s thawed. Move the chicken around regularly on the plate.
Defrosting chicken like this isn’t ideal, as often the thinner parts and edges of the chicken start to cook while the thicker bits are still thawing. Meat defrosted using this method needs cooking straight away.
Cooking Chicken From Frozen
Chicken can be cooked straight from the freezer, it just needs an extra 50% cooking time added to that which is suggested in the recipe. If a chicken takes two hours to roast, then add another hour to the cooking time for a frozen chicken.
Cooking frozen chicken by roasting, sautéing or microwaving often gives uneven results, and the texture can be a bit off-putting. Cooking it in the slow cooker, or in soups and stews gives a much better result.
Use the high setting on your slow cooker to cook frozen chicken, as it brings the temperature up faster.