How To Defrost a Whole Chicken Fast!

We’ve all done it. It’s time to roast your chicken but you forgot to take it out of the freezer. You need to defrost a whole chicken fast! Don’t panic because you have a couple of viable options to get it defrosted pretty quickly and onto the table without holding up dinner for hours.

The most effective way to defrost a whole chicken fast is in a bowl of cold water. A 5lb chicken should take 2.5 hours to fully thaw. The next best option is the microwave, but defrosting might be uneven and some parts of the chicken might even cook. If you are in a huge rush you can roast from frozen. Simply add 50% to the cooking time.

How long does it take to defrost a whole chicken?

The method you choose for thawing will define how long it should take to thaw a whole chicken.

Here is a handy table with the approximate times for each option along with the pros and cons of each option.

Method Time Pros Cons
Microwave Approx 5-10 minutes Very quick Chicken could thaw unevenly
Coldwater 30 minutes per pound of meat Quick and even defrosting Moderately quick to defrost
Fridge 2 days Even defrosting Very slow thawing
Oven Add 50% onto the cooking time Quick The oven has to cook for longer
*Room temp Approx 12 hours None Risk of food poisoning and quite slow to thaw

*Defrosting a chicken at room temperature is a risk because there is a chance that it could go into the danger zone. The danger zone is the temperature between 8°C – 63°C. At that temperature, bacteria are more likely to multiply and cause food poisoning.

How to roast a whole chicken from frozen

frozen chicken in the oven
Frozen chicken in the oven

If you forgot to defrost your chicken in time, did you know that it is perfectly safe to cook it from frozen? In terms of food safety, this is actually a good option because there is less danger of bacteria transferring onto your kitchen worktops/fridge/sink as you defrost it.

When you cook your chicken or turkey from frozen you should add 50% onto the cooking time.

Of course, this method uses more electricity or gas depending on what oven you have. If you are trying to save money on your electricity bill, then this option should be avoided!

Directions for cooking a whole chicken from frozen

Cooking a chicken from frozen is basically the same as cooking it from a thawed state apart from the fact that you should extend the cooking time. If the chicken has giblets you will need to let it cook for a bit until it is possible to remove them.

Stuffing the chicken is going to be difficult when it’s frozen. But, it is not a good idea to do this anyway because it will extend the cooking time even further. The best idea is to make up a tray of stuffing mix and cook it separately.

  1. Unwrap your frozen chicken
  2. Calculate cooking time as for a thawed chicken then add 50% more time
  3. Do not attempt to stuff the cavity of your chicken
  4. Begin roasting
  5. When your chicken is warmed enough, remove the giblets
  6. At the end of the cooking time check the temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. The meat should be at least (75c or 167f)
  7. Remove from the oven
  8. Let the chicken rest for at 30 minutes
  9. Carve and serve

Here are some tips for cooking your chicken or turkey from frozen.

  • Always add 50% to the cooking time
  • Cook at the same temperature that you normally would when cooking a defrosted chicken
  • Use a meat thermometer to check your chicken is cooked through (75c or 167f)
  • If your chicken has giblets, cook the chicken until you can remove them
  • Don’t attempt to stuff your chicken because it will extend the cooking time even more

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How to defrost a whole chicken fast in the microwave

frozen chicken in the microwave
Frozen chicken in the microwave

Defrosting a chicken in the microwave is probably the trickiest option, but it is the fastest.

If your microwave has a defrost option always use that, otherwise use the lowest power possible. Never use the high setting because your chicken will start to cook in some places and remain frozen in others.

You need to keep a close eye on your chicken as it defrosts, it’s easy to cook parts of it rather than just thaw it. Meat that’s been cooked rather than thawed can end up becoming tough when you roast it later, plus half-cooked meat is more liable to bacteria growth.

Directions for defrosting a whole chicken in the microwave

  1. Unwrap your chicken
  2. Put your chicken in the microwave
  3. Select the defrost setting or the lowest power level
  4. Cook for two minutes
  5. Check the chicken, if it’s fully defrosted remove it
  6. If it is not defrosted turn the chicken into a different position
  7. Cook for 2 minutes
  8. Continue to cook and check until the chicken is fully defrosted
  9. Roast the chicken immediately

To check your chicken is fully defrosted you will need to put your hand inside the cavity and feel around for ice crystals.

frozen chicken in microwave with foil on the legs
Frozen chicken in the microwave with foil on the legs

If you find that certain areas of the chicken such as the wings and legs are starting to cook while the rest of the chicken is still frozen you can safely cover those areas with aluminium foil to protect them from overcooking. Make sure the foil isn’t crumpled because the edges can cause sparks.

How to defrost a whole chicken fast in cold water

frozen chicken in a ziploc bag in a bowl of cold water
Frozen chicken in a ziploc bag in a bowl of cold water

Defrosting your whole chicken in cold water is a safe and effective way to defrost it. It is pretty quick too because using this method you could defrost a 5lb chicken in 2.5 hours.

Directions for defrosting a whole chicken in cold water

  1. Put your chicken in a water-tight Ziploc bag
  2. Fill a bowl or bucket with cold water from the tap
  3. Submerge the chicken in the cold water for 30 minutes
  4. After 30 minutes change the water
  5. Repeat until the chicken is fully defrosted

Tips for defrosting a whole chicken in cold water

  • Never use warm or hot water because that will cause parts of the chicken to begin cooking
  • If you won’t be around to change the water every 30 minutes, put the bowl in the sink and trickle some water into it from the tap. That way the water is continuously refreshed.
  • To calculate the defrost time allow 30 minutes for each pound of chicken. A 5lb chicken should take 2.5 hours to defrost in cold water.

Frequently asked questions

How long can you freeze a whole chicken?

A whole chicken can be kept in the deep freeze for up to one year.

How to tell when your whole chicken is cooked?

When your chicken is cooked the juices will run clear. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast. If it is 75c or 167f or more the chicken is cooked.

How to defrost a whole chicken in the fridge

Defrosting your chicken in the fridge is very safe, but it takes quite a long time to thaw this way.

Take your frozen chicken and put it on a tray or plate. Choose the bottom shelf for your chicken. Allow 2 days for it to fully defrost. Roast it as soon as it is fully thawed.

How to tell when your chicken is properly defrosted

When a chicken is fully defrosted you should find that the limbs are floppy when you pick it up. When you put your hand into the cavity you should not feel any ice crystals.

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Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.