Learn how to defrost chicken thighs quickly and safely with these methods.
Preparing for the Freezer
While this step isn’t required, it is helpful and can save time. When you bring your chicken thighs home from the store, try to remember to remove them from the Styrofoam and throw out the moisture pad from underneath. That extra packaging often freezes onto the meat and prevents that side from defrosting as easily, so removing it ahead of time puts you at an advantage when you’re ready to defrost.
If the chicken thighs are attached to each other, you can also separate them and freeze them laying flat next to each other, as opposed to stacked or grouped together. If they’re not touching, they will defrost more quickly.
One way to accomplish all this is to freeze the thighs lying flat and separated in a ziptop freezer bag in the amounts that you’ll want to use them. Once they’re frozen, you can jumble them up and they will stay separate for when you want to defrost them. If you froze them separately and then they stuck together a little bit afterwards, usually a tap on the counter will separate them.
Defrost in the Fridge
Defrosting chicken thighs in the fridge takes the longest but is the safest, and it results in evenly defrosted meat. This method is hands-off and it doesn’t matter what kind of packaging the meat is in, so if you didn’t move the thighs to a ziptop bag and just froze them as you got them, this method will work for you.
With the thighs still in your ziptop bag or in its original packaging, remove them from the freezer and put them on a big dinner plate or food storage container and into the fridge. The plate is just to make sure no condensation or drips get on anything else in your fridge.
This method can take up to 24 hours for a package of chicken thighs, but once you move it to the fridge, you don’t have to think about it again until you’re ready to cook.
When I’m planning ahead, this is my favorite method because it’s so hands-off.
Defrost in Cold Water
Defrosting chicken thighs in cold water is the second slowest method, and it also results in evenly defrosted meat. This method is mostly hands-off. It works best if the meat no longer has its original packaging and has been transferred to a ziptop bag.
To defrost thighs in cold water, they need to be in a securely sealed ziptop bag, whether the meat is still in the original packaging or not. This is so that no water gets to the chicken. So start by putting the meat (or the meat and its packaging if the packaging is frozen to it) in a ziptop bag, if it isn’t already.
Fill your kitchen sink or a large pot with cold water and add the meat in its bag. If the original packaging was frozen to the meat, you can open the ziptop bag periodically to see if you’re able to remove the frozen packaging. Once you do, the temperature of the water can get closer to the meat and it will defrost more quickly.
This defrosting method takes about an hour for a package of chicken thighs, so it requires a little bit of thinking ahead. It is hands-off if you don’t have to worry about the packaging.
Defrost in the Microwave
Defrosting chicken thighs in the microwave is the quickest way to go but it is not hands off and it doesn’t defrost the meat evenly.
While defrosting in the microwave is the quickest of the methods, it’s not my favorite. The reason I don’t like this method is because the meat along the outside defrosts sooner than the middle, and then those edges start cooking.
The way that I’ve adjusted for this is to only microwave for a minute at a time and then rotate the thighs so that the ones on the outside don’t start cooking while the middle ones are still frozen. You still may get some of the thighs starting to cook as they defrost, which is why this is not my favorite method. If this starts to happen, you could finish the defrosting in one of the water methods.
The microwave method does take monitoring, but it can get you working on dinner in about 15 minutes even if you just took the meat out of the freezer.
Defrost in Hot Water
Defrosting chicken thighs in hot water is the second quickest method, it is mostly hands-off, and it defrosts the meat fairly evenly (or, at least, it doesn’t cook any of the meat while other parts are still frozen). This is totally my favorite method!
The general wisdom used to be that using hot water to defrost meat was dangerous because bacteria can grow too easily at the higher temperatures. This is true but recent studies have found that it is safe if the meat is only in the hot water for a short time. I try to keep it below 30 minutes but have heard that an hour is safe. If you are immuno-compromised or unsure, please don’t try this method. Using hot water to defrost meat must be done carefully and is at your own risk.
To prevent the bacteria growth, this method can only be used with smaller amounts of meat, so that it only takes a short amount of time. It’s important for this method that the thighs were frozen individually without the packaging and are not all clumped together.
To defrost in hot water, you’ll fill your sink or a large pot with hot tap water. Sealed in a ziptop bag, submerge the thighs into the water. It can be helpful to use a heavy plate or pot to keep it submerged and surrounded by water. Within 30 minutes, you’ll have defrosted chicken thighs ready to go!
You should cook chicken that is defrosted using this method immediately. If there was any bacteria growth, you want the meat to immediately hit high heat so that it gets killed. Transferring the thighs to the fridge afterwards would give any bacteria a chance to keep growing.
Using your Chicken Thighs
- frozen chicken thighs (frozen separately, not clumped)
- Fill your sink or a large pot with hot tap water.
- Sealed in a secure ziptop bag, submerge the chicken thighs into the water. Top with a heavy plate or something similar to keep it submerged and surrounded by water.
- Within 30 minutes, you’ll have defrosted thighs ready to be made into a delicious meal.
- Cook the defrosted chicken immediately.