Read this before you defrost that bird

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The safest way to thaw frozen chicken also happens to be the easiest way: Simply transfer the chicken in its packaging from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to slowly defrost. When it is fully thawed, you can store it in the refrigerator for an additional one to two days, or refreeze it, if you change your mind.

The only downside to this method is that it requires a little advance planning because it can take a full day for it to defrost, or even longer if the chicken is whole or bone-in parts. And when dinner needs to be on the table now, and you’re looking at a package of rock-hard frozen chicken thighs, that’s not going work.

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So you need plan B: thawing the chicken in cold water. Keep the chicken in its original packaging or place it in a sealed ziplock plastic bag. Place a large bowl in the kitchen sink and fill it with cold water. Submerge the chicken, changing the water every 30 minutes so that it stays cold. According to the USDA, a whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken or package of bone-in parts should thaw in two to three hours. A 1-pound package of boneless breasts will thaw in an hour or less.

Or you can thaw the chicken out of its packaging in the microwave. However, you must cook it immediately after it has been thawed to destroy any harmful bacteria that may form as the chicken warms up. The USDA recommends arranging the chicken parts in a dish or on a rack so that the thickest parts of the bird are toward the outside of dish and the thin, bonier parts are toward the center.

Whichever method you choose, never let frozen chicken thaw on your kitchen counter.

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