Taking the chill off a frozen bird may seem easy, but when it comes to food safety, it’s important to take certain precautions before you defrost chicken. Follow these tips from the USDA to safely defrost chicken or any kind of meat you have stored.
Unsafe food handling methods like leaving raw meat on the counter or under hot water to thaw can lead to dangerous foodborne illnesses. Meat must always be kept below 40°F to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
Defrost Chicken and Other Meat Safely
According to the USDA, three safe methods to defrost a chicken (and other kinds of meat) are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave:
- Refrigerator: Allow at least a day, though time can vary depending on the weight of the bird. Place the bird (covered) on a plate and on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. This helps prevent raw meat juice from dripping onto other foods and surfaces. You can keep the thawed chicken in the fridge for up to 2 days before cooking.
- Cold water: Faster than the refrigerator method, place the frozen bird in a leak proof bag and then submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the bird is thawed. Cook right away.
- Microwave: The most rapid of all methods, thaw your chicken in the microwave on the “defrost” function. Because the meat can partially cook during this process, it must be used after it’s completely thawed.
If you don’t have time to defrost your chicken, you can still cook it while it’s frozen. Be sure to leave extra time for cooking, as it will increase cooking times by half.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.