When it comes to easy-to-prepare, delicious meals that you and your kids are sure to love, everyone knows that chicken is a no-brainer option. Not only is this popular poultry a healthy dinner option, it’s also a versatile protein that can be prepared in many different ways, from impressive finger foods to mouth-watering grilled chicken recipes to healthy chicken dinners. However, despite the many can’t-miss chicken breast recipes you’ve bookmarked, one thing that seems to get in the way of your dinner plans is forgetting to get the chicken out of the fridge in time. But that’s not the case! You just need to know the tips on how to safely and quickly defrost chicken your delicious, hassle-free dinner is back.
Here, we’ve listed three easy ways to thaw your chicken that are recommended by the USDA, so you can use them according to your schedule. In any case, the most important thing to remember is:Never thaw your chicken on the counter or submerge it in hot water, as this will allow bacteria to multiply quickly.
Another option is to skip the thawing process altogether and just cook it frozen. The downside is that it will take about 50% longer to cook. Whether you are going to put the chicken in a healthy sandwich or plan to roast it with some vegetables, here are the best ways to thaw chicken:
How to defrost chicken in the refrigerator
Thawing chicken in the refrigerator requires the most advance planning, as it takes at least a full day for the chicken to thaw, but it is also the safest and most recommended. To thaw using this method, simply place your frozen chicken in the refrigerator; make sure your refrigerator temperature is set at 40 degrees or below, and keep the chicken packed and placed in a container, tray, or pan to prevent the juices from leaking onto other foods (you can also place it on the bottom of a shelf in the refrigerator for this purpose).
While most packages of frozen chicken may take less than 24 hours to thaw, large boneless chicken breasts, bone-in parts, and whole chickens may take two days or more to thaw. Once thawed, your chicken can sit in the refrigerator for an extra day or two before cooking.
How to thaw chicken quickly in cold water
While this method is faster than defrosting in the refrigerator, it requires more attention. Your chicken can be soaked in its original sealed package or put it in a leak-proof bag first. Fill a large bowl (or kitchen sink) with cold water; then, submerge the bag with the chicken in it. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes so that the water stays cold and bacteria don’t start growing.
According to the USDA, small packages of chicken (about a pound) may thaw in an hour or less, while 3- to 4-pound packages may take 2 to 3 hours. Chicken thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately.
How to defrost chicken in the microwave
If you’re pressed for time, you’ll want to learn how to defrost chicken in the microwave – it only takes 10 minutes. First, remove any packaging and loosely cover the dish before placing it in a microwave-safe dish or container. Using the defrost setting on your microwave, defrost the meat for two minutes at a time, checking the meat and turning or flipping it periodically to ensure even defrosting. (If you don’t have a defrost setting, you can set your microwave to 20 – 30% power.) Depending on the power of your microwave and the size and thickness of the chicken, it will take 7 to 8 minutes per pound to defrost.
One important thing to remember is that chicken defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately after defrosting. Since microwaving may heat chicken to temperatures where bacteria can multiply, quickly heating the chicken to the proper temperature is the only way to ensure that potentially dangerous bacteria are destroyed.
Can you refreeze thawed chicken?
Let’s say you bring a package of chicken to thaw for tomorrow’s dinner, but then the next day comes along and you suddenly don’t have time to do it again, you still have the option of putting it back in the freezer – in one case. The USDA says that as long as the chicken has been thawed in the refrigerator, it can be safely refrozen without cooking. However, there is a possibility of a loss of quality.
However, if the chicken was thawed in cold water or in the microwave, it must be cooked immediately. The reason you can’t refreeze chicken after thawing in the microwave is that some areas may get hot during the process and start cooking, which means that the bacteria present will not be killed. Once the chicken is cooked, it is safe to freeze.