How to safely thaw a WHOLE chicken in 30 minutes!

So.... you've forgotten to take the chicken out the freezer the night before to thaw, and now you're panicking about how to defrost a whole chicken in time for dinner? Well, you're in the right place. 

Disclaimer #1: The safest way to defrost chicken is to remove it from the freezer, put it in a container, and put it on a low shelf in a refrigerator for at least 24 hours or until no longer frozen!

Thankfully, there are also other ways to defrost chicken more quickly.

Disclaimer #2: Please for the love of god do NOT use hot or warm water to defrost raw chicken. It will put your food in the danger zone for bacteria for too long. 

How To Thaw Whole Chicken Quick

Method 1: Use a cold water bath
  • Make sure the chicken is sealed in a bag or container.
  • Submerge it in a bowl of cold water.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook immediately after thawing.
  • Takes around 2–3 hours for a whole chicken.
Method 2: Use your microwave's defrost setting

Most microwaves come with defrost settings to speed up thawing. Check your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on using this feature for chicken.

  • Place the chicken in a microwave-safe container.
  • Cook right after defrosting.
  • Clean the microwave well afterward.
  • Be cautious of uneven heating.
  • Microwave for about 10 minutes per pound.

For a rule of thumb, microwave for approximately 10 minutes per pound of chicken. So, a 3.5-pound bird would take about 35 minutes, while a 5-pounder would need around 50 minutes.

Is it okay to defrost chicken on the counter?

Never defrost chicken at room temperature, like on the kitchen counter or anywhere else. Room temperature, usually around 68°F (20°C), is in the "danger zone" for poultry.

Bacteria can thrive in temperatures between 40–140°F (4.4–60°C), and leaving chicken out at room temp for too long increases the risk of bacteria multiplying and causing foodborne illness.

Can you cook chicken from frozen?

Usually, cooking chicken from frozen is safe, as long as you adjust the cooking time and ensure the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

But there are exceptions. Avoid cooking frozen chicken in a slow cooker or microwave, as they keep the chicken in the danger zone too long. Instead, defrost fully first.

Here's how to safely cook chicken from frozen:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling raw chicken.
  • Don't wash the chicken; it can spread bacteria.
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw chicken to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook the chicken quickly on the stove or in the oven, extending the cooking time by 50%.
  • Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer; it should be 165°F (74°C) or higher.
  • Clean the thermometer with hot, soapy water.
  • Wipe down any surfaces that touched the chicken with antibacterial wipes or hot, soapy water.

Can you refreeze defrosted chicken?

You can refreeze chicken defrosted in the fridge within 1–2 days of thawing, whether it's raw or cooked.

But if you defrost chicken in water or the microwave, cook it right away before refreezing. Otherwise, it might not be safe.

Refreezing can affect quality, so don't leave chicken in the freezer too long, but it's safe from bacteria while frozen.

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