A whole frozen chicken is best defrosted in the refrigerator. However, this can take a long time. A general guideline is to allow for five hours per pound of meat for defrosting time. Therefore, an average chicken would take between 15 and 25 hours to thaw. A much faster method is to thaw a chicken in cold water. The cold water keeps the outer part of the chicken cold enough to prevent bacterial growth while the inner part of the chicken thaws.
Leave the frozen chicken in its packaging and place in plastic bag, sealing to prevent chicken juices from escaping. This will also prevent the chicken from absorbing water. Place the frozen chicken in the roasting pan or sink and fill with cold water. The chicken should be completely submerged in the water.
Change the water every 30 minutes, always adding cold tap water. Don't be tempted to add warm water so the chicken defrosts more quickly. According to the USDA, the danger zone --- the temperatures at which bacteria multiply rapidly in food --- is between 4.44 degrees C and 60 degrees Celsius. Warm water would put the chicken into this danger zone while it is thawing.
Remove the chicken from the water when it is completely thawed. This takes about 30 minutes per pound, so a chicken can usually be defrosted in 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
Cook the chicken immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to two days. If you are planning on marinating the chicken, place it in the refrigerator in a clean, resealable plastic bag, not at room temperature. Cook the chicken first if you plan to refreeze it.
Rinse the sink or roasting pan and clean it thoroughly with hot soapy water. As an extra precaution, you can add 1 tsp of bleach to a gallon of water to disinfect any surface that may have come into contact with juices from the chicken.