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How to defrost chicken


Defrosting chicken correctly is one of the most important stages in food preparation. Find out how to defrost chicken breasts or thighs safely in the microwave, fridge and in water.

The defrosting of meat ensures even cooking. Cooking chicken from frozen could leave you with an outside that’s cooked and a centre that may not be, which means it could contain harmful bacteria.


There are a handful of different, foolproof ways to defrost chicken. Follow this easy guide for a selection of safe methods that are based on defrosting chicken breasts and thighs as opposed to a whole bird.

Defrosting chicken in water

Thawing chicken in cold water is easy to do. There are a few important steps to follow:

  1. Place your chicken in a sealed sandwich bag so that water cannot get in and contaminate the chicken.
  2. Place the bag in a very large mixing bowl or clean washing-up bowl.
  3. Fill the bowl with cold water and submerge the bag in it. Make sure the water is cold – using warm or hot water is unsafe and will promote bacteria growth on the poultry.
  4. Change the water every 30 mins.

Depending on how much chicken you are using, the chicken will defrost at different times. Around 500g of chicken will take about an hour to defrost, but do check your chicken and if after this time it hasn’t defrosted, continue with the method. Cook the chicken immediately after defrosting.

Defrosting chicken in the microwave

A popular way to thaw chicken is using your microwave, it's quick and easy. You must be particularly vigilant when defrosting in the microwave as leaving it in there for too long, or on the wrong setting, can leave the chicken unsafe to eat.

  1. Place the chicken on a microwavable plate (one or two pieces at a time) and use the defrost setting for one minute at a time.
  2. Make sure you keep checking the chicken to assess whether or not it has defrosted.

Be especially careful not to leave the chicken in the microwave for too long as you do not want the chicken to start to cook. Remember when using this method, you must cook your chicken immediately after defrosting.

Defrosting in the fridge

It may take a little longer but defrosting chicken in the fridge is the safest and most recommended method. Make sure you plan ahead if you wish to do this, keeping note of how long your chicken has been thawing.

  1. Place your chicken in a large sealed sandwich bag.
  2. Sit on a lipped plate or bowl to stop any excess juices leaking onto other food and spoiling it.
  3. Leave the plate at the bottom of the fridge for around 5 hours per 450g but ideally overnight.

Once defrosted using this method you can keep your chicken stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours before using it.

How to tell when chicken is properly defrosted

To check if your chicken is thoroughly defrosted cut a small slit in the thickest part of the breast or thigh. Insert your finger; the flesh should be soft and no ice crystals should remain. If you feel ice crystals or the flesh is solid you will need to continue defrosting.

More frozen food advice

Top tips for freezing food
How to avoid food poisoning
How to freeze fruit & vegetables
Freezable family recipes


What's your preferred method for defrosting chicken? Leave a comment below...

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