How to defrost a whole chicken

Updated March 23, 2017

A whole chicken offers several meal options for family dinners, holiday gatherings and backyard barbecues. You can grill or roast the chicken and serve it whole, or shred it for chicken soup or tacos. If your fresh or fully cooked chicken is sitting in the freezer, you’ll need to know how to properly defrost it. Although you can immerse it in cold water or use your microwave if you need a quicker thawing process, placing it in the fridge provides the safest way to defrost it.

Put the fully wrapped chicken on a platter to prevent the drippings from falling on and possibly contaminating other food.

Clear space in the fridge for the chicken and place it inside.

Allow five hours of defrosting time per pound.

Take the chicken out of the fridge. Put your hand inside the cavity of the chicken to check if it’s fully defrosted. If you feel ice crystals, place the chicken back in the fridge to thaw longer.

Fill your kitchen sink with cold water.

Put the fully wrapped chicken in the water. Add more water if the chicken isn’t completely submerged.

Allow one hour of defrosting time per pound. Drain and refill the sink with cold water every 30 minutes while the chicken is defrosting.

Stick your hand inside the chicken’s cavity to check for ice crystals. Leave the chicken in the water longer if any are present.

Remove the chicken once it’s fully thawed. Drain the sink. Thoroughly wash the sink’s surface and any utensils you used with soap and hot water to kill germs.

Unwrap the chicken from its original packaging and put it on a microwave-safe plate. Cover the chicken loosely with cling film and place it in the microwave.

Set the microwave to defrost or use a medium-low setting. Set the time for two minutes.

Wait two minutes when the microwave is done running. Reach inside the chicken’s cavity. If you feel ice crystals, turn the chicken around and run the microwave at the same setting for another two minutes. Let the chicken stand for two minutes and check for ice crystals again. Repeat this procedure until the chicken is fully defrosted.


Never defrost chicken at room temperature or use warm or hot water to defrost chicken in the sink. The warm temperatures encourage bacterial growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Platter
  • Microwave safe plate (optional)
  • Cling film (optional)
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