You've been running late, and now you realize that dinner is going to be a last-minute affair. You need to defrost chicken but don't want it to turn dry and tough like the last time you tried it. No worries – we're here with everything you require! We'll tell you how to safely defrost chicken without any of the usual hassles, as well as give some quick tips for getting your meal on the table in time and avoiding mistakes when thawing.
It's important to use the correct thawing procedures to preserve raw chicken fresh and protected from 4.4–60°c (40–140 °F) where harmful bacteria start to thrive. This increases the risk of people contracting foodborne illnesses once they eat it.
Bacteria, viruses, and poisons are among the causes of foodborne illnesses. The following are some of the bacteria that may be found in chicken:
Even though some of these bacteria can be killed when you thoroughly cook the chicken, they have an after effect of leaving toxins behind. For instance, E.coli leaves behind a deadly toxin.
This is why you must thaw chicken safely in addition to cooking it safely.
Another thing to note, sometimes it can be difficult to smell or see whether the chicken meat has gone bad. This is because some harmful bacteria that cause foodborne diseases do not cause food to go smell or appear bad. Plus, there's no way to determine the harmful amounts of these organisms.
According to FSA, food poisoning affects almost one in five people within the UK every year. Even though most people get well within a few days, it can leave lasting effects.
Certain people are more susceptible to food poisoning. That is older people, over 65 years, kids under 5 years, people with immunodeficiency and pregnant women.
Before we dive into the different defrosting methods, it is important to note that each thawing method works differently for either chicken pieces and whole chicken. Time taken depends on the size of a chicken, the bigger it is, the more time it will take.
This is one of the best, safest and quick methods to defrost the chicken. Be sure to use cold water as warm water allows bacteria to grow and hot water will start cooking the chicken on the outside while the insides remain frozen. Ideally, cold tap water works but if you live in areas where the water might get warm especially during summer, just add some ice cubes to cool it down.
It will take 1 hour for half a kg and about 2- 3 hours for 1.5kgs to 2kgs.
If defrosting separated chicken pieces, submerge the chicken wings first as they tend to defrost faster, followed by the chicken breast.
The temperature should be lower than 20°c (68 °F) for adequate safety.
This method is very safe and easy to use for defrosting small quantities of chicken.
You don't need to remove the chicken from its packaging as long as it is airtight.
It provides the meat with more surface area for faster thawing and preserves its texture, flavour and moisture content better than other methods.
You require a bit more time if you're thawing large amounts of meat or whole chickens at once.
Since we are also focusing on speed, let’s say you don't have a full hour or more to defrost your chicken. You can use a microwave to defrost it in just 5-10 minutes!
The microwave is one of the fastest and safest ways to defrost your chicken, but you need to babysit it, or you’ll cook it through, at least partially.
Defrosting using a microwave is the fastest method of defrosting chicken
It works best for small skinless pieces of chicken
Sometimes the leaner parts of the chicken will start to cook a bit while the thicker parts are still defrosting.
Well, what if you want to skip the whole defrosting process? It is possible to cook frozen chicken. However, the cooking time will increase by about 50% over the recommended time for fresh or thawed meats and reaches a safe internal temperature of 74 °C (165 °F).
Keep in mind not all cooking methods apply to this, the exceptions are using a slow cooker or cooking in a microwave, as the cooking temperature remains unsafe for too long and risk multiplying harmful bacteria.
Check the internal temperature of the chicken using a meat thermometer.
No thawing time, however, it will take 50% more time than when cooking thawed chicken.
You can cook the whole bird and only need to wait for 50% longer than the normal cooking time.
The cooking time is increased by about half an hour, so you might be late with serving dinner after all...
Not ideal for certain cooking methods like using slow cookers or a microwave.
This is the least recommended method and should be used as a last resort, ensuring you take extra precautions.
According to food scientist Harold McGee, short thawing times in hot water do not render food less safe. This is because the chicken isn't exposed to unsafe zone temperatures long enough to cause damage.
Cook the meat immediately after thawing and in the high safe temperature range of 165⁰F (74⁰C).
It will take:10-15 minutes
One of the fastest methods of defrosting after using a microwave
If defrosted for more than 15 mins, growth and multiplication of harmful bacteria begin.
The centre of some thick pieces might be left frozen.
Although it might take a longer time, this is the safest method of defrosting a chicken. This is because it allows bacteria to break down slowly, but still provides enough time for them to be destroyed. The temperature should remain below 4 °C (40 °F) throughout this process, which is safe according to food safety.
24 hours for small pieces, 48 hours for a whole chicken
DO NOT defrost your chicken on the countertop. This is because the temperature of the countertops are higher than in a fridge, which means that harmful bacteria will multiply quickly.
DO NOT thaw your frozen meat outside on cold surfaces, either, concrete or metal trays. These areas often attract pests and might be dirty (which will contaminate your food).
To check if your chicken is thoroughly defrosted, slice it into one of the thickest portions using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, as parts might have defrosted faster than others. If you see or touch ice crystals, then the chicken needs to defrost more.
Only If you defrosted the chicken in the fridge for 1-2 days, then it is safe to refreeze. This is both for cooked or raw chicken.
However, if you thawed your chicken using a water bath or microwave, you can only refreeze if cooked and as long as you cooked it immediately after defrosting.
Before refreezing cooked chicken, allow for some time for it to cool down before placing it in the freezer.
The safest method to defrost chicken is using the refrigerator overnight. However, if you are in a hurry or forgot to take out the chicken from the freezer, you might need a fast-defrosting method like a microwave or cold water bath.
When choosing one of the above-mentioned thawing methods, consider the amount of time you have, how big the chicken is and how much time you will be able to dedicate to monitoring the process to ensure the chicken has evenly thawed.
Always ensure you handle raw chicken with care to avoid cross-contamination and cook it thoroughly before eating.
The safest method of defrosting chicken is to leave it in the fridge for a day or two.
By using a microwave. However, you need to pay attention as to not overheat it. This is because microwaves heat food unevenly, so you require to rotate and stir the chicken as well as defrost in short intervals.
By using cold water also known as "water bath". Fill up a large enough container with cold tap water until it is about halfway up the side of your chicken. Then place it in there in an airtight bag. Be careful not to leave it longer than overnight as this can lead to bacteria multiplying.
Using cold water will keep the temperature below 20°c (68°F) which is needed to destroy bacteria that might cause foodborne illness.
Hot water defrosting mostly defrosts the outer layer of the chicken leaving the inner parts frozen.
Only if it was defrosted in the fridge it can last up to 48 hours. For other thawing methods, it is advised to cook immediately.