How to Defrost Chicken Fast (Quickly Thaw Chicken)


What’s the quickest way to defrost a chicken? The fastest way to thaw chicken is to use a microwave. Learn how to defrost chicken fast AND safely, including tips on quick thaw chicken in the microwave, how to defrost chicken in water, and more. Learn expert tips and food safety rules from a registered dietitian on how to defrost chicken quickly, and help prevent food poisoning!

how to defrost chicken fast
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How to Thaw Chicken Breasts Safely and Quickly

Want to know how to quickly defrost chicken? According to the USDA, there are only three ways to safely thaw chicken:

  1. Thaw chicken in the microwave
  1. Defrost chicken in cold water (in a leak-proof bag)
  1. Thaw chicken in the refrigerator

Of these methods, the microwave is the fastest way to defrost chicken. However, exactly how long your chicken takes to defrost depends on several factors:

  • The amount of chicken defrosted at once (more chicken = longer time)
  • The size of the chicken pieces (e.g., chicken breasts take less time than a whole chicken)
  • Whether the chicken is bone-in or boneless (bone in chicken tends to take longer)
  • How high-powered your microwave is

As mentioned, the microwave is the best way to defrost chicken for defrosting chicken fast. Unfortunately, there are some downsides to using this method. Since microwaves heat unevenly, chicken thawed using this method may end up partially cooked.

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The other safe methods of thawing chicken will not partially cook the chicken, but they do take longer. You also have one more option for your frozen chicken, and that’s cooking it directly from frozen. Cooking chicken from frozen typically takes 50% longer than fresh chicken (source).

You can cook frozen chicken in the oven, air fryer, stove, or pressure cook it in the Instant Pot. You should not slow cook or sous vide frozen chicken. These last two cooking methods don’t get frozen chicken out of the food safety danger zone (between 40-140F or 4.4-60C) quickly enough, and may lead to foodborne illness.

There are defrosting trays that claim to defrost meat quickly on the kitchen counter. They receive mixed reviews and any meat not defrosted in 1-2 hours must go back in the fridge. I would exercise caution if you have one of these.

⭐ How to Defrost Chicken Fast in Microwave

Let’s talk about how to defrost a chicken in the microwave. Here are the instructions:

  1. Chicken thaws fastest if you freeze it in individual pieces. To do this, lay the chicken out in a non-touching single layer on a baking tray lined with freezer paper. After it’s frozen solid, pack the chicken in freezer bags with the air pressed out. (There are some pics of chicken frozen in store packaging, but the chicken often sticks to the plastic liner in the tray, so this is not recommended.)
  1. When you’re ready to thaw the chicken, place it in a microwave-safe bowl or baking dish. It’s OK if the chicken pieces are stuck together, but they’ll take longer.
  1. Place the chicken in the microwave, and follow the thaw time in the next section.
frozen chicken breast

How long to defrost chicken in microwave?

The defrosting time can vary a bit depending on your microwave. I used a 1000W microwave to develop these thawing times. All thaw times are using the “high” microwave setting.

How Long Does It Take to Defrost Chicken Table

Type of ChickenWeightTotal Defrost TimeNotes
Chicken Breast (Boneless)4 ounces1-1½ minutesnone
Chicken Breast (Boneless)1½-2 lbs.3 minutesDefrost 2 minutes, flip pieces, microwave 1 min, add 30 sec increments if needed
Chicken Thigh (Boneless)4 ounces1-1½ minutesnone
Chicken Thigh (Boneless)1½-2 lbs.2½-3 minutesDefrost 1½ minutes, flip pieces, microwave 1 min, add 30 sec increments if needed
Chicken Drumsticks (Bone In)5 lbs.7-8 minutesDefrost 3 minutes, break apart pieces (as able), defrost 3 more minutes, break apart more pieces. Remove thawed pieces from microwave, defrost rest 1-2 minutes
Chicken Thighs (Bone In)5 lbs.7-8 minutesDefrost 3 minutes, break apart pieces (as able), defrost 3 more minutes, break apart more pieces. Remove thawed pieces from microwave, defrost rest 1-2 minutes
Chicken Wings5 lbs.6-7 minutesCheck every 1-1½ minutes, breaking apart frozen together pieces and removing thawed pieces.

I do not recommend defrosting a whole chicken in the microwave. The outer parts of the chicken will cook fully before you’ve adequately thawed the inside of the chicken.

Some microwaves have a defrost button or defrost setting you can use instead. Refer to your microwave’s instruction manual for more info on using that feature.

how to defrost chicken drumsticks fast

How long to defrost chicken thighs?

You can defrost frozen chicken thighs in the microwave, in the refrigerator, or in a leak-proof bag in cold water. Here are the approximate thaw times for chicken thighs in the microwave:

  • Boneless Chicken Thighs (4 ounces): 1-1½ minutes
  • Boneless Chicken Thighs (1 ½-2 lbs.): 2½-3 minutes
  • Bone-In Chicken Thighs (5 lbs.): 7-8 minutes

These times are approximate, and may vary depending on your microwave. Check the chicken at regular intervals to separate pieces and ensure they’re not overcooking.

🔥 How to Defrost Chicken Fast without Microwave

Want to know how to thaw out chicken fast without a microwave? Using a cold water bath and refrigeration are your two food-safe options, but they’re slow. However, you can speed defrosting time by using small, boneless chicken pieces.

Frozen chicken placed in the refrigerator will generally take 24-48 hours to thaw. You can safely refreeze (unthaw the chicken), if desired, without cooking it first (source).

how to defrost bone in chicken fast

🧂 How to Defrost Chicken Fast with Salt

Some unreliable sources suggest that you can thaw chicken faster in salted water. However, I don’t recommend it for food safety reasons.

For one, when you thaw chicken in water, the USDA recommends keeping the chicken in its airtight packaging or a leak-proof bag. The chicken never actually touches the water it’s defrosted in. So, don’t waste the salt!

Second, soaking chicken in salted water is essentially brining it. You should only brine chicken that is thawed or purchased fresh (source).

You can brine fresh chicken for up to two days in the refrigerator. Frozen refrigerated chicken thaws from the outside in. It’s possible for the outside thawed parts of the chicken to become mushy in brine while the inside of the chicken is still frozen.

🤔 How to Defrost Chicken in Water

Can you thaw chicken in cold water? Can you defrost chicken in hot water? You can defrost chicken in cold water, but it is not considered safe to defrost chicken in hot water.

Here are the directions to thaw chicken in water:

  1. Make sure the chicken is secured in a leak-proof bag or airtight packaging.
  1. Submerge the package of chicken in cold tap water.
  1. Change the cold water out every 30 minutes to ensure it stays cold, until the chicken is thawed.
  1. Cook the chicken immediately after thawing.

This is your no-microwave solution for how to defrost chicken breast fast. A 1-lb package of chicken breasts will typically take 60 minutes or less to thaw in cold water.

For those of you that like to break the rules, food scientist Harold McGee developed a method to safely thaw chicken in hot water. You can learn more about this technique here. Please note that this method is only for thin chicken breasts and other small pieces of chicken, and that you must still seal the chicken in a Ziplock bag.

Is it safe to defrost chicken in water?

According to the USDA, it is safe to defrost raw chicken in COLD water if it’s in a leak-proof bag. Change the water out every half hour to ensure it stays cold.

How long to defrost a whole chicken in water?

In general, it takes 2-3 hours to thaw a whole chicken in cold water (source). Make sure to change out the water every 30 minutes. This is for a 3–4-pound broiler fryer chicken.

How long does it take to thaw chicken wings in cold water?

You can thaw a 3-4 lb package of frozen chicken wings in cold water in 2-3 hours (source). Smaller amounts of chicken wings will take less time, particularly if they are not stuck together.

😋 How to Defrost Chicken Fast with Vinegar

Another internet method for thawing chicken is to use a mixture of vinegar and water. I do not recommend this defrosting technique. Since chicken thawed in water isn’t supposed to touch the water, this method wastes vinegar.

Soaking chicken in an acidic solution, such as vinegar water, marinates it. Marinating tenderizes chicken by causing the poultry tissue to break down (source). A marinade won’t penetrate into a piece of frozen chicken, but may cause the thawed outside of the chicken to get mushy.

🥶 How to Defrost Chicken Fast in Air Fryer

You can defrost chicken fast in an air fryer by skipping the thawing entirely! The air fryer isn’t an approved method of defrosting chicken, but you can cook frozen chicken in the air fryer.

I love air frying frozen chicken, and I hope you try it out. Here are a few ways to cook frozen chicken in the air fryer:

️ How to Defrost Chicken Fast in Instant Pot?

You can also defrost chicken fast in an Instant Pot, again by skipping the thawing! The Instant Pot isn’t an approved method of defrosting chicken, but you can safely cook frozen chicken in an Instant Pot.

Only pressure cook frozen chicken, do not use the slow cooker setting. You can find directions for frozen chicken in the Instant Pot here.

🍗 How to Defrost Chicken Quickly in Oven

You can cook your frozen chicken directly in the oven, skipping the defrosting step entirely. Surprisingly, the USDA states that some chicken, “such as pre-stuffed whole birds, MUST be cooked from the frozen state to ensure a safely cooked product.” Here are directions for how long to bake chicken breast at 400 from frozen.

️🌡️ How can you tell if chicken is defrosted?

BBC GoodFood recommends cutting into the chicken and feeling for ice crystals to see if it’s defrosted. (Eww) I’d just stick a meat thermometer into the middle of the chicken. If it’s above 32F (0C), you’ve defrosted it.

If the chicken is too solid in the middle to stick the meat thermometer in, you’ve definitely got some frozen chicken.

fastest way to defrost chicken

How long is chicken good after thawing?

Cook chicken thawed in the microwave or in cold water immediately after thawing. You can keep chicken in the fridge an additional 1-2 days after thawing if you used the refrigerator method (source).

🐔 Chicken Breast Recipes

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Here are a few delicious and easy chicken recipes:

chicken defrost fast

FAQs

How do you defrost a chicken in 15 minutes?

You can defrost almost any type of chicken in under 15 minutes in the microwave. The microwave is the only USDA-approved way to thaw chicken in under 15 minutes. Other fast defrosting methods are not considered as safe.

Can you instantly defrost chicken?

No chicken defrosts instantaneously, but a small portion of chicken breast can be thawed in the microwave in 1-1½ minutes. You really cannot thaw a whole chicken fast.

Can I cook chicken from frozen?

Yes, you can cook frozen chicken safely in the oven, air fryer, or stove. You can also pressure cook frozen chicken.

What happens if the chicken starts to cook while defrosting?

It doesn’t matter if the chicken starts to cook when using the microwave method, because you’re supposed to cook it immediately upon thawing. Other methods that could partially cook chicken while defrosting are not considered food-safe. For how to thaw chicken quickly without partially cooking it, the cold-water method is best.

Why is my chicken white after defrosting?

If your chicken is white after thawing, it may either have freezer burn or it may have partially cooked during defrosting. Freezer burned chicken is generally safe to eat, though it may have deteriorated in taste and texture.

How long does it take to thaw chicken at room temp?

It is not considered a safe method to defrost chicken at room temperature. At room temp, the bacteria in chicken can proliferate, potentially causing food poisoning.

Is it OK to grill frozen chicken?

Yes, according to the USDA, you can safely grill frozen chicken and meat, but the cooking time is 50% longer than fresh.

how to defrost chicken fast directions

💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian

This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Chicken is a super source of lean protein, depending on the type you use. For info on chicken portion sizes, I highly recommend checking out the how much chicken is 3oz article.

how to defrost chicken breast fast

Regardless of the type of chicken defrosted, you must cook it to a safe temp of 165F (74C). Stick a meat thermometer into the center of the piece of chicken to ensure it’s fully cooked. This is the minimum safe internal temp for whole chicken, chicken wings, breasts, thighs, ground chicken, and even leftover chicken.

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The Disclaimer…

All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.

The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.

For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let’s get cooking!

📖 Recipe

Like this recipe?Leave a rating by clicking the ⭐ below!

how to defrost chicken fast

How to Defrost Chicken Fast (Quickly Thaw Chicken)

Summer Yule

Learn how to defrost chicken fast AND safely, including tips on quick thaw chicken in the microwave, how to defrost chicken in water, and more.

Cook Time 5 mins

Total Time 5 mins

Course Food Education

Cuisine American

Servings 1

Calories 100 kcal

Ingredients

  • 4-32 ounces chicken breast (boneless) OR
  • 4-32 ounces chicken thighs (boneless) OR
  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs.) OR
  • 5 lbs bone-in chicken pieces (chicken wings, chicken thighs, or chicken drumsticks)

Prevent your screen from going dark

Instructions

  • IMPORTANT! There are only 3 ways to defrost chicken that are considered safe: in the microwave, in cold water, or in the refrigerator.

Defrost Chicken in Microwave:

  • Place the chicken in a microwave-safe bowl or baking dish. It’s OK if the chicken pieces are stuck together, but they’ll take longer.

  • Put the chicken in the microwave. Here are the approximate thaw times in a 1000W microwave using the high setting:4 ounces boneless chicken: 1-1½ minutes1½-2 lbs. boneless chicken: Defrost 1½-2 minutes, flip pieces, microwave 1 min, add 30 sec increments if needed 5 lbs. bone-in chicken: Microwave in 1-1½ minutes increments, breaking apart stuck together pieces and removing thawed pieces. Total microwave time: 6-8 minutesWhole chicken: Not recommended for microwave defrosting
  • Cook the chicken immediately after thawing.

Defrost Chicken in Cold Water:

  • Make sure the chicken is secured in a leak-proof bag or airtight packaging. 

  • Submerge the package of chicken in cold tap water. 

  • Change the cold water out every 30 minutes to ensure it stays cold, until the chicken is thawed. 1 lb. of chicken breast will take less than 60 minutes, a whole chicken may take 2-3 hours.

  • Cook the chicken immediately after thawing. 

Defrost Chicken in Refrigerator:

  • Move frozen chicken from freezer to refrigerator. Chicken generally takes 1-2 days to thaw in the fridge.

  • Unlike the other methods, you can safely refreeze this chicken without cooking it first.

Notes

This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Chicken is a super source of lean protein, depending on the type you use. For info on chicken portion sizes, I highly recommend checking out the how much chicken is 3oz article.
Regardless of the type of defrosted chicken, it must be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Stick a meat thermometer into the center of the piece of chicken to ensure it’s fully cooked. This is the minimum safe internal temp for whole chicken, chicken wings, breasts, thighs, ground chicken, and even leftover chicken.
 
Nutrition information will vary depending on the cut of chicken and your portion size.

Nutrition

Calories: 100kcal

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how to defrost chicken fast





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