In a time crunch to know how to thaw chicken fast? Learn 5 simple, SAFE ways to thaw your chicken. You’ll see how long each method takes, how to eliminate bacterial growth when thawing, and how to freeze chicken. Put your new knowledge to work with the recipes at the end!

Four pieces of chicken are flattened.

How can you thaw frozen chicken fast?

The fastest way to thaw chicken is in the microwave. However, there are a few different methods in addition to this, and the best one depends on your personal preference when it comes to the texture of the meat. No matter what, it’s important to thaw chicken safely. You’ll want to avoid the hacks out there that can result in weird textures, abnormal flavors, and possibly foodborne illnesses.

What shouldn’t you do to thaw chicken?

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) classifies chicken to be unsafe to eat when it has been between the temperatures of 40°F–140°F. This is called the Danger Zone, and it is when bacteria grows rapidly. That bacteria growth can cause foodborne illness and even food poisoning with symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Considering these guidelines, the most unsafe ways to thaw chicken include using a hot water bath or simply letting chicken sit out at room temperature. Furthermore, the hot water bath might cook the edges, resulting in a white, too-chewy texture. Sitting at room temperature only allows for the edges to thaw while the inside takes much longer, requiring far too much time in the Danger Zone.

Chicken breasts are placed in a crockpot.
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5 Ways to Defrost Chicken

Let’s look at 5 safe ways you can thaw chicken fast, according to your preference. Learn how long each method takes in addition to all of the advantages and disadvantages.

Microwave Method

This method is obviously the fastest way. Simply remove the frozen chicken from its packaging and put it in a microwave-safe dish with a paper towel on top. Use the defrost setting for 4 minutes, turning the chicken over at 2 minutes.

Results: The microwave will start to cook the chicken, and it’ll turn slightly white and dry on the edges. It will have an unpleasant odor that smells like cooked chicken, even though it’s not fully cooked through.

Defrosting chicken in the microwave is the fastest, but it will not yield the best results.

Instant Pot Method

In just 15 minutes, you can use your Instant Pot to thaw and cook your chicken at the same time. After placing your frozen chicken in the bottom of the pot, add water or broth and close your steam valve. At a manual pressure on high, cook for 10-12 minutes and let the pressure naturally release for 1 minute before turning the valve completely.

Results: Perfectly cooked chicken, and you can personalize it with whatever recipe you’d like.

Thawing chicken in the Instant Pot might just be one of the fastest and easiest ways to get the best texture and flavor of your meat.

Air Fryer Method

This method allows you to skip the thawing process completely. Set your air fryer at 375°F, place the chicken inside, and let it air fry for 5 minutes to defrost. Flip the chicken, and put it back in for 10 more minutes to finish defrosting. Pat the chicken dry, then give it an additional 15 minutes to cook.

Results: In just 30 minutes you can have your chicken ready to go, but it does take quite a few steps and monitoring.

Defrosting chicken in the air fryer gives you the chance to skip the thawing process and go straight to cooking with all your preferred seasonings and ingredients.

Cold Water Method

This cold water method is easy to remember. Submerge your chicken in its original packaging in a large bowl of water that is below the Danger Zone temperature (below 40°F). Change the water every 30 minutes to prevent the water from reaching room temperature. You might need to use a dish to keep the chicken from floating to the top.

Results: After 90 minutes, your chicken will be completely thawed without any discoloration.

Since it takes less than 2 hours, this way is fast and doesn’t change the color or texture. The best way to make sure the water doesn’t reach over 40°F is to set your microwave timer every 30 minutes to keep that water cold.

Refrigerator Method

This method does take the longest, so let’s see if it’s worth it. Keeping the chicken in its original packaging, place it in the fridge. It will completely thaw in 9 hours, but can take longer depending on the size and temperature of your fridge.

Results: There will be a pool of water under the chicken, but it does not change the texture or appearance of the chicken.

Defrosting in the fridge is not ideal if you don’t remember to take it out ahead of time or if you’re in a time crunch, but it does yield perfectly pink raw chicken and is the safest way. Additionally, a thawed piece of chicken can still last in the fridge for up to 2 days if you don’t need to use it right away.

Strips of chicken on a cutting board.

Do you need to thaw chicken before cooking?

It is not completely necessary to thaw chicken before cooking. If you are wanting something quick and safe, the Instant Pot and Air Fryer methods are your best bet for thawing and cooking it in one go. If you’re wanting to fancy up your chicken on the stovetop, then safely thawing it first will give it the right texture.

What’s the best way to thaw chicken?

The best way to thaw chicken is going to be the safest method: the refrigerator method. But, if you’re in a time crunch, you can go with a faster way with either the microwave, Instant Pot, or air fryer. Since all of these methods are safe, the best method for you depends on how quickly you need to get your bird on the table.

Can you refreeze defrosted chicken?

Yes, refreezing defrosted chicken can be done as long as it’s done safely. If your chicken does not enter the unsafe temperature in Danger Zone, then refreezing in a leak-proof bag is great as long as it hasn’t been cross-contaminated. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that defrosted chicken should be refrozen within 2-3 days of defrosting.

Refrozen defrosted chicken might not taste the same and could have a different texture. Try freezing chicken pieces in their own separate plastic bags to reduce the need of refreezing.

The fat is trimmed from the chicken thighs.

How can you tell if chicken is completely thawed?

Stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken. If it’s above 32°F, it’s completely defrosted. If you do not have a meat thermometer, slightly cut into a thick part of chicken and feel for cold ice crystals. If there are ice crystals, you have longer to go before it’s completely thawed.

How to Freeze Chicken

Follow these 3 simple steps to safely freeze chicken:

Remove Original Packaging

Remove the plastic wrap, Styrofoam, and moisture pad so it doesn’t freeze to the chicken. This will also prevent the chicken from taking longer to thaw on one side versus the other.

Flash Freeze

Place each chicken piece on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper. Cover the chicken with a lid to prevent freezer burn. Let your chicken freeze for at least 5 hours to make sure it’s really hardened and frozen.

Place in Freezer-Safe Bag

Put each chicken thigh or chicken breast in a bag. Now your chicken won’t stick together! Make sure the bag is sealed tight with minimal air. Chicken can last in the freezer for up to 1 year, as long as you don’t thaw and refreeze the whole chicken bag.

Cubed chicken on a white cutting board next to a knife.


How do you defrost a chicken in 15 minutes?

Use an Instant Pot or the microwave to defrost chicken in under 15 minutes.

Can you instantly defrost chicken?

No, defrosting chicken can take anywhere from 4 minutes to 24 hours.

Can I cook frozen chicken?

Yes, with the Instant Pot you can cook frozen chicken in just 15 minutes.

What happens if the chicken starts to cook while defrosting?

The texture and taste of your defrosted chicken will not be the same as raw, but you can use the 4 methods in this post (other than the microwave) to eliminate the possibility of partially cooked, thawed chicken.

How long does it take to thaw chicken at room temperature?

It is not recommended to thaw chicken at room temperature because that’s the prime temperature (between 40°F-140°F) when bacteria grows rapidly.

Is it okay to grill frozen chicken?

Yes, you can grill frozen chicken, but it’ll take double the amount of time to cook through safely.

Two bowls of a chicken tortilla soup recipe that was made in the slow cooker.

The Best Chicken Recipes

Try out these chicken recipes that will do well with any crowd:

Learn how to handle chicken in all its different forms:

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