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Tips and Tricks for Cooking Chicken Safely; Part 1: Defrosting and Prep

Tips and Tricks for Cooking Chicken Safely

Part 1: Defrosting and Prep

In all of our recipe posts, we provide certain safety tips, like the importance of cooking chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It occurred to us that our readers may benefit from learning more about the proper way to prepare and cook chicken, including how to safely defrost frozen chicken. This tip is particularly important, since our Pasturebird chicken is shipped to our customers frozen and must be thawed prior to cooking.

We’ve decided to make this a two part series - in this post, we’ll discuss how to properly defrost and prepare chicken, and in our next post we’ll give you tips on cooking chicken safely, including safety tips for marinating (yes, there are rules about that, too!)

How to Safely Defrost Chicken for Cooking

While it may seem like a no-brainer (remove from freezer, allow to thaw); there are actually some important safety precautions to take when defrosting chicken.

Depending on how much time you have, there are a couple of different ways to safely defrost chicken:

  • Defrosting chicken in the refrigerator: if you have the time to plan ahead, you can defrost your chicken in the refrigerator prior to cooking. Chicken takes about 24 hours to fully defrost in the fridge, so if you plan to use this method, make sure to give your chicken plenty of time to fully defrost before you need to cook it. Once defrosted, chicken should be cooked within 1-2 days.

  • Defrosting chicken in water: if you need to thaw chicken quickly, you can do so by placing the frozen chicken (either in its original airtight packaging or a leak-proof freezer bag) in a bowl of cold water, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. You’ll need to change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that it doesn’t get too warm, and never defrost chicken in warm water, as this can cause bacteria to grow.  This method can take about 1-2 hours depending on how much chicken you’re defrosting at once. Once the chicken is defrosted using this method, it should be cooked immediately.

  • Defrosting chicken in the microwave: This is probably our least favorite method, but it works in a pinch. It can sometimes defrost meat unevenly though, so you may end up with some sections that are thoroughly thawed and some that are still a bit frozen. But if you’re in a pinch and short on time, you can defrost chicken in the microwave using your specific microwave’s instructions. Make sure you clean the microwave thoroughly after defrosting the chicken, and cook the chicken immediately.

  • No matter what method you use for defrosting chicken, it’s important to make sure that the chicken is placed in a bowl or other container to catch any juices that may leak during defrosting - even if you leave chicken in its original packaging to thaw, it isn’t necessarily 100% leakproof. 

    Here are a few other important safety tips for defrosting chicken:

    • While it’s safe to cook frozen chicken in an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, NEVER cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker. Slow cookers do exactly as their name suggests; they cook food slowly, and this can leave chicken in the danger zone for bacterial growth for too long prior to being safely cooked.

    • Never defrost chicken on the counter. This method defrosts meat slowly, and keeps it in the bacterial danger zone for too long. Even if you live in a cold climate. Even if it’s wintertime. Even if you bump your A/C down to an uncomfortable temperature for all the humans in your house. Even if your grandmother says that’s how she defrosted chicken. It’s still not safe. Just don’t do it!

    When it comes to preparing chicken for cooking, make sure to continue to use proper food safety when handling it. Despite what you may have heard in the past, it is no longer recommended that you wash chicken prior to cooking it. While it was once thought that washing chicken prior to cooking rinsed off any possible bacteria, washing chicken can actually spread bacteria to other surfaces or utensils in the kitchen. Instead, just ensure that you are cooking your chicken to a safe internal temperature - that will kill any germs present.

    Finally, make sure to wash your hands and any cooking tools and surfaces thoroughly after handling raw chicken, and never use the same cutting board to prep other foods after raw chicken has touched it. 

    Now that we’ve covered some important safety tips for defrosting and preparing chicken, tune in to Post #2 in this series for how to properly marinate and cook your Pasturebird pasture raised chicken.

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