What is the Best Way to Freeze and Defrost Chicken?

Proper freezing

Chicken may be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged into smaller portions. However, if it will be frozen longer than two months, place it in airtight plastic or freezer containers. If your chicken is not properly wrapped, air can reach the surface and cause freezer burn. Discard heavily freezer burned chicken because the meat will be too dry and tasteless.

Safe Defrosting

The USDA recommends three different ways to defrost chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Never defrost chicken on the countertop.

In the refrigerator: Slow but safe. Boneless breasts usually defrost overnight. A whole bird may take up to two days. Once it is defrosted, it can be kept in the refrigerator another day or two before cooking.

In cold water: Be sure the bird is in airtight packaging. Submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. A package of parts will defrost in 2 to 3 hours; boneless parts often take less time.

In the microwave: Cook immediately after thawing because the food may become warm during microwaving.

Cooking Times

The USDA recommends cooking whole chicken to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Table below shows the approximate cooking times for chicken parts

Type of Chicken Weight Roasting @ 350 degrees F Simmering Grilling
Breast halves, bone in 6-8 oz 30 to 40 min 35 to 45 min 10-15 min/side
Breast halves, boneless 4 oz 20 to 30 min 25 to 30 min 6-8 min/side
Legs or thighs 4 or 8 oz 40 to 50 min 40 to 50 min 10-15 min/side
Drumsticks 4 oz 35 to 45 min 40 to 50 min 8-12 min/side
Wings 2-3 oz 30 to 40 min 35 to 45 min 8-12 min/side


Microwave directions:

  • Use medium-high power.
    • Whole chicken, 9 to 10 minutes per pound
    • Bone-in parts, 8 to 9 minutes per pound
    • Boneless breast halves, 6 to 8 minutes per pound
  • When microwaving parts, arrange in dish so thick parts are toward the outside of the dish.
  • Place a whole chicken in an oven cooking bag or a covered pot.
  • For boneless breast halves, place in a dish with ½ cup of water; cover with plastic wrap.