Is it okay to thaw chicken in warm water?

How to Defrost Chicken

Getting chicken (safely!) from a rock-hard frozen state to a thawed ready-to-cook state raises a lot of questions. Here is all you need to know about how to thaw chicken.

First, chicken should never be thawed or defrosted on the counter at room temperature or in a bowl of hot water. The following methods should allow you to thaw chicken and keep it out of the “danger zone” (40 to 140°F), which is the temperature zone that allows bacteria to grow.

In general, larger cuts of chicken, especially a whole chicken, should be thawed in the refrigerator.  If a whole chicken or a larger amount of parts are thawed in a microwave the chicken will start to cook on the outside before it defrosts in the middle.  And whole chickens will take a very long time in a bowl of cold water.  However, smaller cuts, and especially boneless cuts, do well with the cold bowl of water or microwave method.


Cook Without Thawing

When you’re really in a pinch, you don’t have to thaw frozen meat before cooking. Believe it or not, it’s safe to cook fresh-out-of-the-freezer blocks of ground turkey, solid cuts of chicken, and bricks of ice-cold steak. The meat will take longer to cook (about 50% more time), and it’s not ideal for achieving golden-crispy skin or a perfect sear. However, it’s an option that’s always there for you — even when perfectly thawed protein isn’t.

Just avoid cooking frozen meat in the slow cooker — it can spend too much time thawing and become unsafe to eat.

In the microwave

The defrost setting will gently thaw frozen chicken.
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While the microwave isn’t the most reliable method, it can work when done properly. The cardinal rule of thawing chicken in the microwave is to only use the defrost function. Using the presets on your microwave, make sure you enter the accurate amount of pounds you’re defrosting since this will determine how long it stays in.

“The defrost cycle on a microwave goes through ups and downs of power while it’s moving the item,” Guillard says, “It’s the best way to defrost so that it’s not too much energy, which may lead to hotspots and only some parts of the chicken being defrosted.” This can be dangerous because it can lead to the development of microbes in parts of the chicken, he says. 

For that reason, he says you need to immediately cook the chicken since it will have warm spots. Luckily, this thawing method “should not affect the texture” or flavor of the chicken, says Guillard. 

Method 3: Cooking Frozen Meat

The last method is technically the fastest way to thaw meat because cooking frozen meat will rapidly thaw it.

Cooking frozen meat is perfectly fine and can actually produce better results in some situations.

For example, steak typically tastes better and achieves a better result when you cook it from a frozen state instead of thawing it out first. You’ll likely achieve a better sear, the steak will retain more moisture, and it tends to taste better. I was skeptical until I tested it and saw how much of a difference it made.

The rule of thumb is that when cooking frozen meat, it will take 50% longer to cook through.

So to use this method, all you need to do is make sure that you allow more time for the meat to cook throughout and hit the required temperature in the center.

If you want to cook from frozen, here is a quick overview of the minimum temperature you should aim for:

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb: 145°F
  • Ground Beef: 160°F
  • Chicken: 165°F
  • Ham: 165°F

If you cook from frozen and properly reach the correct temperature in the center of the meat, you will have minimized the chances of any bacteria growing and surviving.

Chicken Water Thawing Hacks That Dont Require Electricity

Now, I realize that not everyone has access to electricity in their coop. Or even if they could rig it up, they don’t want to! Here are some solutions I rounded up for folks that fall into this category for whatever reason.

Use an Old Tire (and Some Insulation)

An old tire will absorb sunshine and the insulation will help keep things warm enough to keep the water thawed. Here’s some simple instructions:

Harnessing Solar Power

There are several ways to use the sun to your advantage to help keep chicken water thawed. Here’s a quick list:

Using Black Rubber Buckets (the black rubber absorbs the heat)

Creating a Mini-Greenhouse Affect with Old Windows (you need two windows wired together on the long side of the window and placed like a ‘tent’ or V-shaped. Place this in a sunny location and place the water inside. The windows will help keep the water from freezing.)

Make a (simple) solar container in which to place the water. You can see how here:

Using Ping Pong Balls

The theory in this hack is that the ping-pong balls move around on the surface of the water, helping to keep it from freezing. In order to try this hack out, you’d need a bucket water container and not a traditional chicken waterer.  Then, throw a handful of ping-pong balls in the bucket and see what happens!

Salt Water Bottles

This particular solution has mixed reviews. Some people swear by it, others say it doesn’t work. I’m intrigued just by the fact that there are so many opinions so I’m going to try it when we get freezing temperatures and see what I think of it.

How it works: Fill up 32 oz PLASTIC bottle with 3 cups of plain old table salt (the other kinds apparently don’t work as well) and then fill the bottle with water and stick it in your water bucket. The salt water in the bottle will keep the water for the chickens thawed as it’s presence in the water lowers the temperature in which the water will freeze.  Because this is such an easy hack, made with recycled materials and cheap salt, it seems a worthy experiment to me.

Hand Warmers

Some folks report that they use those little flat, square hand warmers (like this) under their chicken water to keep it thawed during freezing temperatures.  Where I live, this might not be a bad idea to try (as we don’t get more than a couple of weeks of freezing weather), but it might be kind of spendy if you have a solid winter of freezing temps and more than one water container (as they’re only like 12 hour heaters).

I said I was giving you TEN hacks to keep your chi

I said I was giving you TEN hacks to keep your chicken water thawed this winter, but I lied. There’s actually twelve ideas to try out. There should be something for everyone this way! Regardless of what you do, make sure your flock has drinkable water all winter. Even though they don’t drink as much water in the winter, they still need it and it’s still an important part of a healthy flock life.

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Water Bath Thawing

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Frozen chicken can be thawed, either in vacuum-sealed bags or sturdy, leak-proof, zipper-top storage bags, in a bowl of cold water sitting on the counter. Do not use hot water. Besides possibly enabling bacteria to multiply, warm water will also start to “cook” the outside of the meat before the middle is thawed.

If your cold tap water is relatively warm, as is common in the summer in some areas, add ice cubes to the water to bring the temperature down to where it feels pleasantly cool. Change the cold water every 30 minutes to make sure the water stays cold and use the thawed chicken right away.

Using this method, ground meat will thaw in as little as an hour, a small package of boneless chicken will thaw in one to two hours, and larger amounts and bigger cuts may take a few hours. This method is not recommended for especially large cuts or whole birds.

If you are thawing multiple pieces in a bag, use this method to speed up the process: Once the pieces have thawed enough to be separated, open the bag and pull the pieces apart. Then reseal the bag and return it to the water. Keep checking until the meat is thawed.

Can You Cook Frozen Chicken?

Baking chicken from frozen is possible. It’ll only take a longer time, but definitely doable. But, when it comes to frying the meat, it won’t be very effective. Since the meat will get crispy on the outside before it cooks on the inside, it’s absolutely not advisable to cook chicken while still frozen.

Read More: How to Smoke a Turkey on a Pellet Grill? How to Cut Tri-Tip Steak Like a Pro How Long To Marinate Chicken? How Long to Grill Chicken?

Using hot water

Dean Clarke/Shutterstock Dean Clarke/Shutterstock

It may sound supremely tempting to speed things up with the hot water tap, but do not pop the package of poultry into a container of hot water or run it under the same. That’s because the high temperatures used to defrost chicken this way actually serve as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and can often lead to a lack of uniform defrosting. This means that portions of the chicken are then plunged into that temperature danger zone that can breed harmful bacteria (via USDA).

So what should you do with a frozen chicken, then? If you want to defrost your chicken using water, you actually need ice cold water to safely speed up the defrosting process. Just be sure not to place the frozen meat under running water, as that can cause bacteria to spray inside your sink, across your countertops, and everyone in close proximity to the chicken, according to Healthline

Plus, the cold soak method is pretty simple. The USDA recommends that you either leave the chicken in its original airtight packaging or slip it into a leakproof plastic bag, which helps contain the spread of bacteria. Then, submerge the chicken in the packaging or the bag under cold tap water. You’ll need to swap out the water every 30 minutes or so until the chicken is fully thawed, which can take up to 3 hours for a 3 to 4 pound chicken or even less for smaller packages.

4. Microwave it

If you want to know how to defrost chicken fast, the answer is to microwave it. But this technique barely makes the cut, because while it’s speedy, it can also be risky if not done right.

The main problem is that if you don’t cook the microwave-defrosted chicken right away, you run the risk of bacterial growth. "You need to cook the chicken immediately after it's been thawed in the microwave, since it essentially starts the cooking process and puts the meat in the food safety 'danger zone,'" Sharp says. If you let this partially cooked meat sit around, any bacteria present will not have been killed yet, giving it the chance to grow, the USDA explains.

The other drawback is that, even if you do it safely, microwave-thawed chicken breast is never going to be the most delectable choice. "In my experience, most chicken pieces are not equally shaped all over, so by the time a thicker piece thaws through, the thinner smaller bits and edges have already started to cook and get rubbery," Sharp says. And nobody wants a rubbery chicken breast for dinner.