How to defrost chicken breasts

Updated June 18, 2018

Food-borne sicknesses can result from the improper handling of frozen chicken meat. Proper refrigeration, defrosting and cooking keeps the meat safe for consumption. Improperly thawed chicken breasts can contain bacteria such as salmonella, listeria and Staphylococcus aureus. For safety, defrost the chicken slowly, storing it at temperatures of 4.44 degrees Celsius (40 F). Avoid defrosting methods such as thawing on the counter, or running warm water over the chicken. When the meat's temperature rises over 4.44 degrees Celsius (40 F), bacteria multiply and can cause illness.

Cold water bath

Place the frozen chicken breasts inside an airtight, plastic bag that does not leak. Keeping water off the chicken helps the meat retain its flavour and cuts down on bacteria development.

Set a plastic bowl in the kitchen sink. Select a bowl that is wider and deeper than the bag of chicken breasts, for complete submersion.

Place the bag of frozen chicken breasts into the bowl. Situate the bag so the chicken does not stick above the bowl's top.

Fill the bowl with cold tap water. Allow the water to cover the bag of frozen breasts.

Dump the water out of the bowl and replace it with new cold water every 30 minutes until the chicken defrosts. Chicken breasts weighing 450 g (1 lb) should defrost in approximately one hour.

Microwave defrosting

Poke holes in the package's cellophane covering with your finger, if defrosting the chicken breasts in the original grocery packaging. This allows steam to escape the package so the breasts do not cook as they thaw. Place the package on a microwave safe plate.

Place nonpackaged chicken breasts on a microwave safe plate. Cover the frozen breasts with waxed paper.

Set the microwave to defrost for the desired time, according to your particular microwave's defrosting instructions for chicken breast. Start the microwave and turn the meat over when prompted by the microwave. Remove the breasts when thawed and cook immediately, as bacteria will develop quickly on thawed chicken meat.

Place the frozen chicken breasts inside a plastic bag, if they are not already contained inside a package.

Place the package on a plate to collect any juices while the meat defrosts. This keeps the juice contained and from contaminating surface areas of the refrigerator.

Sit the plate inside the refrigerator and keep the breasts refrigerated until thawed. Frozen chicken breasts weighing approximately 450 g (1 lb) should defrost in 24 hours.


It is safe to refreeze chicken defrosted in the refrigerator. Chicken stores safely in the refrigerator for two days before it requires cooking or freezing.


Do not refreeze chicken defrosted in the microwave or in a cold-water bath, due to bacteria growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bag
  • Plastic bowl
  • Plate
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
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About the Author

For over 25 years, Joyce Starr has owned businesses dealing with landscape & design, lawn maintenance, specialty herbs and a garden center. She holds certificates in landscape design and xeriscaping. Starr shares her passion for nature in her writing, publishing articles on horticulture, outdoor recreation, travel as well as business.