How To Thaw Chicken Fast

Defrosting quickly is sometimes necessary. The clock is running out on dinner and you have things to do – and no one put the chicken in the fridge to let it thaw. Chicken is a pretty common protein in families, and defrosting doesn’t need to stand in your way of enjoying it.

Chicken can be thawed quickly, the same is the process for a cornish hen.. The question is, how do you do it and what’s the best method for safety and quality? After all, you might not need to sacrifice taste and speed.

Thawing chicken quickly means exposing it to lots of heat fast. The microwave is an option. Defrosting in cold running water or a defrosting tray might also be preferably. We’ll discuss how to do each option below.

How do you thaw chicken in a microwave?

The microwave is by far the fastest method of defrosting chicken, or really any other meat. So, how do you do it?

  1. Remove chicken from packaging
  2. Put the chicken in a lightly covered container. The container does not need to be sealed
  3. The container with chicken can be put in the microwave
  4. Some microwaves have a defrost function. This defrost function can also decide for you how much time and power to use based on the meat and weight. Use this function if available.
  5. If your microwave doesn’t do that, you need to know how much your chicken weighs. Defrost at 30% to 50% power for seven to eight minutes per pound
  6. The automatic defrost method will tell you when to flip your chicken within the container
  7. Using the manual method, wait till the timer runs out, flip and do it again.

The microwave defrost method uses a lower level of heat for a while. Ideally, you want to prevent actually cooking the chicken as much as possible. You might get the smell of cooked chicken, but that’s OK. 

The biggest issue with microwave defrost is that the chicken doesn’t taste as good as other methods. This method is best used when you plan to shred the chicken or use lots of sauce anyway.

How do you thaw chicken in a defrost tray?

Honestly, you’ve probably never had or heard of a defrost tray. We include the defrost tray because it works to defrost food quickly.

A defrost tray is a metal tray that conducts room temperature air more directly at the chicken. It’s not nearly as fast as the microwave, but the results might be better.

  1. Put the chicken you wish to thaw in a heavy duty plastic bag to keep juices from spilling.
  2. Put the chicken with bag on the defrost tray
  3. The time you spend waiting can vary on the chicken’s temperature, the room temperature, and the amount of chicken. Some defrost trays claim the ability to defrost in 15 minutes. Try checking back in 15 minutes.
  4. If the chicken is not thawed enough, wait a while longer.

This might not necessarily be a fast method, but it’s certainly quicker than others and retains the quality of the chicken.

Another reason to check on the chicken often is because it might become overly thawed and have some juice run out. Once juice starts coming out, it’s probably ready to go!

Defrosting chicken in cold water

This is one of the simple and easy methods. You don’t even need a microwave or appliances.

  1. Remove the chicken from the package and put it in a heavy duty plastic bag
  2. Place the chicken in the sink in a bowl or a grate. Don’t use a sink stopper and let the sink drain. Putting the chicken in the bottom of the sink is an option too.
  3. Run cold water continuously over the chicken.
  4. This method could take an hour. Check on the chicken every 15 minutes to see if the texture or juices have changed.
  5. Remove the chicken from the bag. It should be dry!

Admittedly, this is not the most environmentally friendly method as it wastes plenty of water. The quality of the chicken will turn out pretty good, though it can take an hour or more. 

Defrosting chicken in hot water

We do have to throw it out there immediately that this method is only safe if you follow instructions well. Bacteria will build up quickly on meat that is being thawed above 140 degrees, all without cooking it.

That said, if you have a digital or analog thermometer, it’s time to get it ready.

  1. Heat up a pot of water or a kettle until it reaches 140 degrees. Do not go higher than 140 degrees or your chicken will start to cook and also produce more bacteria while not fully cooked.
  2. Once the water is up to 140 degrees, put the chicken in a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag.
  3. Place the bagged chicken in the water. You have the option to transfer the water to a larger container.
  4. Remove the chicken from the bag after about 10-12 minutes. 

The quality of this method tends to be better than the microwave. Just make sure the water never gets hotter than 140 degrees. This is why the thermometer is needed.

Defrosting in cold non running water

Want a more environmentally friendly approach than running water. Do you have just a little more time – like an hour and a half?

  1. Run cold water into a bowl large enough to handle the amount of chicken you want
  2. Put the chicken in a zip lock bag and place it submerged in the water
  3. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure it stays under 40 degrees – use a thermometer if needed
  4. Keep doing this until the chicken is defrosted.

This adds a little extra time, but also is safer and results in tastier chicken.

Final thoughts

When speed is of the essence, quality can be kept – at least a bit. Use our tips above and you’ll find a good balance of methods that give you quality chicken, and do it fast. You may also want to consider learning how to defrost chicken thighs specifically.