Can you defrost a chicken in cold water?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “can you defrost a chicken in cold water?” We will also discuss the other methods used for defrosting a chicken.

Can you defrost a chicken in cold water?

Chicken can be defrosted using cold water and is one of the safer ways to defrost a chicken. However, while defrosting chicken with cold water, the water needs to be changed every 30-45 minutes. The time required for the chicken to be defrosted depends on the size/weight of the chicken. Chicken breast approximately takes about 1.5 hours to defrost. 

What are the different ways of defrosting chicken?

Chicken can be defrosted using the following ways:

  • Refrigeration
  • Microwave
  • Coldwater
  • Defrosting tray
  • Hot water bath

How is the refrigeration method used to defrost a chicken?

The refrigeration method involves the thawing of the chicken by placing the chicken in the refrigerator at 5℃ or 41℉ for 24 hours. The time required for the chicken differs based on the weight/size of the chicken.

What is the microwave method?

The microwave method involves the thawing of chicken using the microwave. The microwave is set in the defrost mode and it takes very less time. It is one of the quickest ways to unfreeze chicken but the chicken once thawed needs to be cooked immediately as the bacteria will thrive if stored for a long time. 

Even though this method is quick, it does not work well with smaller portions of chicken especially with chicken breast as it cooks fast and becomes dry quickly. Hence, this might not be one of the most recommended methods.

How is the cold water method used to defrost a chicken?

The cold water method is one of the quicker and healthier ways of defrosting chicken. In this method, the chicken is wrapped or put in a ziplock cover and immersed in a pot/sink with cold water which needs to be changed every 30 minutes. The chicken once thawed is pink in color and there will be no change in the texture or taste of the chicken. 

Another way of using this method is by immersing the ziplock in a pot with running water so that there is no need of changing the water every half an hour. However, this method is not the most efficient as there will be a lot of water that will be lost, however, it takes less time than the traditional method. The cold water method takes approximately 1 hour for every pound of chicken. 

How is the defrosting tray method used for defrosting chicken?

The defrosting tray is a method in which the meat (chicken) is placed on a defrosting tray. The defrosting tray is a plate that is usually made out of metals like aluminum which is known to be a good conductor of heat. The mechanism behind this method is that the defrosting tray conducts heat with the surroundings and helps the meat to melt. 

However, this might make the chicken dry as it is exposed to air. The defrosting tray can be found in supermarkets and can be brought online. If you like to buy a defrosting tray please click here.

What is the hot water bath method and how is it used to defrost a chicken?

The hot water bath method is the method in which the chicken is placed in a ziplock cover and kept in a water bath of 140℉ or 60℃. The water quickly comes down in temperature due to the coldness of the meat. It takes about 12 minutes for 1 pound of chicken to defrost in this method however this is not approved by food safety organizations as hot water thaws the chicken faster hence allowing the growth of bacteria. 

There are several reports which contradict this claim, as the amount of bacteria present is still within the permissible limit and does not cause food-borne illnesses as compared to the traditional method of pouring hot water on chicken which is forbidden by many food safety forums. Since there is a conflict in this method, it is not popularly known and is not recommended. 

How do you know if the defrosted chicken is ready to cook?

After defrosting the chicken by using one of the methods mentioned above, a small incision/slit can be made especially in the fat-rich region (in the thigh or breast) and then using the finger you can feel if the innermost part is cold or if there are ice crystals if there is no ice crystals or does not feel cold then the chicken is fully thawed and ready to cook.

If the chicken is still cold or has ice crystals the thawing time needs to increase and the chicken is ready to be cooked. 

What not to do while defrosting a chicken?

Defrosting chicken using hot water is not recommended as it helps the microbes already present in the chicken to grow and this might increase the chance of food-borne illnesses and may even lead to death. 

However, there are new reports that suggest that defrosting with hot water is safe for smaller meat like chicken filets, pork chops, and beefsteak depending on the size of the product to be defrosted.

The not to do is not to keep the meat without cooking using the hot water method and has to be cooked right away. The only method not to use is the defrosting of meat at room temperature as it is highly risky and also takes a long time to defrost which allows the bacteria to thrive on the meat/chicken.


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “can you defrost a chicken in cold water?” We have also discussed the other methods used for defrosting a chicken.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.