How to defrost chicken safely

There are three ways how to defrost chicken.  The safest way is to defrost it in the fridge.  But you can also defrost chicken in water, in a microwave or cook from frozen.

Defrosting chicken in the fridge

Defrosting chicken in the fridgeFood safety is important; plan ahead. Defrosting chicken in the fridge takes time, but it is the safest way.  The rule is five hours for every 0.453 kgs of chicken.  Therefore, a bird weighing 2.5 kgs will take approximately 24 hours to defrost.

To defrost the chicken keep it in its packaging and place, in a deep container, on the bottom shelf.  This will ensure no water from the chicken spills over other food.

Defrosting chicken in cold water

Another way of defrosting chicken is by placing it in cold water.  Put the chicken in a sealed plastic bag and place the bag in a large bowl of cold water or in your kitchen sink.  Change the water every 30 minutes to speed up the defrosting process.

Thawing chicken in waterThis method of defrosting is best suited for small pieces of chicken, such as breasts or thighs.  It takes one hour to defrost 0.453 kgs of chicken using this method.

Do not be tempted to use hot water; bacteria multiplies in hot water.

Once the chicken is defrosted, cook immediately.

Defrosting chicken in a microwave

Defrosting chicken in a microwave is the quickest way of getting the job done.  However, it is not necessarily the ideal way.

Defrosting chicken in a microwaveRemove the packaging and place the chicken in a microwavable container.  Check your microwave instruction manual and set the time accordingly.  Do not over-microwave your chicken.  Microwaving your chicken for too long, will heat up the meat and promote the growth of bacteria.  If you  leave the chicken in the microwave for too long you can partially cook the bird.

Can chicken be cooked from frozen?

Yes; chicken can be cooked from frozen but it takes, approximately, one and a half times as long for it to cook.

Bear in mind, under-cooking white meat (chicken, pork, veal) can be very dangerous.  If possible, use a meat thermometer to check the cooking temperature of the meat.  The correct temperature for chicken is 74 degrees Celcius (165 degrees Fahrenheit). If you do not have a thermometer, test the chicken by inserting a skewer or pointed knife in the thickest part of the chicken.  The juices should run clear.

Dos and don’ts about chicken

  • Do not defrost chicken on the kitchen counter; warm temperature promotes the growth of bacteria.
  • Do not refreeze defrosted chicken; not unless it is properly cooked and cooled down well.
  • Do make sure the chicken is piping hot, all the way through, before serving.
  • Do not wash raw chicken; you could splash bacteria around your kitchen.
  • Do wash your hands, knives and chopping board in warm, soapy water after handling raw chicken (and other meat).


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