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Thawing Frozen Chicken Safely

Whether it is really true or not, I've always heard that nothing can make you sicker than chicken that has been allowed to thaw on the countertop all day. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA, there are only three ways to thaw a chicken that will keep the meat safe to eat. Which method you use will depend on how fast you need to cook that frozen chicken.

Refrigerator Method

Place the package of frozen chicken on a plate or in a shallow bowl and transfer it to the refrigerator. Allow the chicken to thaw overnight. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days just fine. If thawing a large amount of chicken breasts or quarters, allow approximately 24 hours for every four pounds of chicken.

Cold Water Method

This method works well if you still have a few hours before you plan to cook the chicken. Fill your sink or a large bowl with cold water. Immerse the chicken, while still in the packaging, into the water and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain off the water and cover with fresh cold water. Repeat every thirty minutes until the chicken is thawed. 

Microwave Method

Remove the chicken from the packaging and lay out in a single layer on a plate or other microwave safe container. Thaw, using your microwaves thaw setting (usually 30 percent) turning often until the meat is pliable.  You should always turn the meat often during the thaw time to keep it from 'spot' cooking.

Words to the Wise

When using either of the two latter methods of thawing, cook the chicken immediately after it is thawed. This will prevent bacteria from growing on the warm meat.
You can also cook chicken from the frozen state in most cases. Simply turn the heat down a bit (medium-low for stovetop; 300 to 325 degrees for oven) and cook for approximately 40 minutes longer than stated in your recipe.

Always check chicken doneness with a meat thermometer. Chicken should read 160 to 165 degrees in the thickest portion of the meat to be fully cooked.