How to defrost chicken safely

How to defrost chicken

To avoid food poisoning it is essential that food be defrosted safely before use. It is especially important to know how to defrost chicken safely.

  • Why is this step so important?

There are two issues to consider when  defrosting food, both of which will affect the quality of the food once prepared and, more important, add a risk of food poisoning to whoever eats the food. If you want to know how to defrost chicken and other foods, read on.

The first issue is if the food is not properly defrosted.  For example, joint of meat or poultry may that is not properly defrosted may appear ready to cook from the outside, but the meat at the centre may still contain ice crystals.

This means that, after following the cooking instructions for a de-frosted piece of meat of that type, the centre may still not be properly cooked and spoil the taste and texture of the meat as well as creating a serious risk of food poisoning.

The other risk from defrosting is leaving the food in an unsafe defrosting environment for too long. Allowing the food, especially meat to sit in temperatures above 4.4 °C (typical fridge temperature) will lead it to begin to spoil and bacteria to grow within a couple of hours.

Even in the fridge at this temperature, the food will begin to spoil in 1 to 2 days.

To maintain meats for a longer period of time freezing at below -17.8 °C  is required.

The Food Standards agency offers advice for storing chilled food.

How to defrost chicken and other meat

Refrigerator Defrosting

Moving the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator will begin the defrosting process. This is generally considered the safest way though as the environment the food is stored in is chilled it usually takes the longest.

For example, defrosting a 20 pound (9 Kg) frozen turkey in the fridge set to 4.4 °C will take 5 days.

The general rule is to allow a full day for each 5 pounds or 2.25 Kg of meat.

Meat defrosted in this way is safe to store in the fridge for up to 3 days before cooking once defrosted.

Please note that a typical refrigerator will have various temperatures within. Typically, cooler at the bottom of the unit and at the back and warmer at the front and near the door.

Using a Comark refrigerator thermometer will ensure that you place your meat in the correct area of the fridge and can monitor its thawing accurately.

Cold Water Defrosting

Firstly, it’s important to use cold water to thaw your food. This might sound counter intuitive, but don’t be tempted to use warm or hot water. Using warm water will not only spoil the food but will lead to an uneven thawing process which risks bacteria being present in the centre of the meat even after the outside has burnt.

The meat should first be placed in a water tight container or packaging. It is important not to let the meat become wet as it will absorb the water and begin to spoil.

As a rule of thumb allow 30 minutes per pound (1 hour per Kg). It is also important to change the water approximately once every 30 minutes as the meat will cool the water still further as it cools slowing the process unless the water is changed.

You can see that it might still take 8 hours or more to properly and safely defrost a large joint of meat.

Once the meat is defrosted in this way it should be cooked immediately (same day).

Microwave Defrosting

The final option is to use your microwave.

Firstly, it is important to say that this method is only safe if you intend to cook the meat immediately after defrosting.

Microwaves have different energy ranges, and of course there is the size consideration with most domestic microwave ovens being too small to accommodate a large turkey.

It is important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model of microwave for de-frosting food.  They will have guidance on how to defrost a chicken using your microwave.

How to ensure your meat is properly defrosted

The safest and most secure way to ensure your meat is properly thawed and suitable to be cooked is using a Comark meat thermometer.

Meat not properly defrosted or stored for too long after defrosting is a considerable risk to your health. The only way to be sure that the temperatures are correct at freezing, defrosting and cooking is to use a food thermometer.

Defrosting Food Guide