How Long Does It Take a Whole Chicken to Thaw? The Ultimate Guide!

In the kitchen, cooking a whole chicken is a popular and delicious way to provide a satisfying meal for a large family or group of friends. However, many people often forget about the thawing process or are unaware of how long it takes a whole chicken to thaw completely. This article will provide you with an ultimate guide on how long it takes a whole chicken to thaw and other essential aspects of the thawing process.

The Importance of Thawing Chicken Properly

Before delving into how long it takes to thaw a whole chicken, let’s first discuss why it’s essential to handle and thaw chicken correctly. Improper handling of chicken can cause contamination and the risk of foodborne illness. It’s essential to follow proper food-handling policies at all times, including thawing your chicken.

How Unthawed Chicken Can Pose a Danger

Unthawed chicken can gather bacteria on the surface while being stored in the freezer. Therefore, it’s crucial to thaw chicken completely before cooking it. According to the USDA, uncooked chicken can be harmful, even fatal, if not handled appropriately. Bacteria on uncooked poultry can cause illness in people who consume it, most commonly salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis. It’s essential to take extra care when thawing chicken and to cook it to an internal temperature of 165°F.

How Long Does It Take to Thaw a Whole Chicken?

Factors that Affect the Thawing Time of a Chicken

The thawing time of a whole chicken depends on multiple factors, including:

  • The chicken’s weight and size
  • How the chicken is packaged and frozen
  • The type of thawing method used

How to Safely Thaw a Whole Chicken

When it comes to thawing a whole chicken, safety should always be the top priority. It’s crucial to follow proper thawing methods and take extra care not to contaminate the chicken. Here are some safe thawing methods:

Refrigerator Method

The best method for thawing a whole chicken is in the refrigerator. This method can take around 24-48 hours, depending on the size of the chicken. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place the frozen chicken in a dish or container to catch any potential drips or leaks.
  2. Place the chicken on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator where it can thaw safely.
  3. Allow the chicken to thaw in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Based on your refrigerator’s temperature, the chicken might thaw more quickly or slowly, so it’s crucial to check it regularly.
  4. Once the chicken is fully thawed, cook it, or refreeze it within two days.

Cold-Water Bath Method

The cold-water bath method is another way to thaw a whole chicken. This method is quicker than the refrigerator method, but it requires more effort. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place your chicken in a resealable plastic bag to avoid cross-contamination.
  2. Fill a sink or large bowl with cold water.
  3. Submerge the chicken in the cold water, ensuring that it remains airtight in the bag.
  4. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure it remains cold, preventing bacterial growth.
  5. Thaw the chicken for approximately thirty minutes per pound of chicken. For instance, if your chicken weighs five pounds, it should take approximately two and a half hours to thaw.
  6. When the chicken is fully thawed, cook it immediately.

Microwave Method

The microwave method is the quickest option for defrosting a whole chicken. However, this method can lead to uneven thawing if you’re not careful. Additionally, it’s essential to have a meat thermometer to check the chicken’s internal temperature before cooking it. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove any packaging or wrapping from the chicken and place it on a microwave-safe dish.
  2. Set the microwave to the defrost function and specify the weight of the chicken.
  3. microwave the chicken in fifteen-minute intervals, rotating it every so often to promote even thawing.
  4. Check the temperature of the chicken using a meat thermometer, ensuring it’s at least 165°F before cooking it.
  5. Clean your microwave thoroughly after defrosting the chicken, avoiding cross-contamination with other food items.

Factors That Influence Thawing Time of a Whole Chicken

Chicken Size and Weight

The size and weight of a chicken play a significant role in how long it takes to thaw. Smaller chickens will thaw quicker than larger ones. For example, a three-pound chicken can thaw in roughly twelve hours in the refrigerator, while a five-pound chicken can take up to twenty-four hours.

Packaging and Freezing Method

Chickens that are individually wrapped or vacuum-sealed will thaw faster than those that are not. Additionally, chickens that have been frozen immediately after processing will defrost quicker than those that have been in the freezer for an extended period.

Thawing Method

The thawing method can also influence the defrosting time. The refrigerator method is the most effective and safest option for thawing chicken. The cold-water bath method is hazardous if the chicken is not entirely submerged in the water, causing bacterial growth. The microwave method may lead to uneven thawing, making it crucial to check the chicken’s internal temperature before cooking it.


Thawing a whole chicken is an important step to avoid foodborne illness and ensure that it cooks evenly. The thawing time of a whole chicken depends on its size, packaging and freezing method, and the thawing method used. Always thaw chicken safely and follow proper food-handling policies to avoid contamination. Utilize the methods discussed in this article to safely thaw your chicken, ensuring it’s thoroughly cooked before serving it to your loved ones.

Most Common Questions And Answers Related To Thawing A Whole Chicken:

  • Q: How Long Does It Take for a Whole Chicken to Thaw in the Fridge?
  • A: It takes around 24-48 hours to thaw a whole chicken in the fridge, depending on its size.
  • Q: Can You Cook a Chicken That Isn’t Completely Thawed?
  • A: No, you should never cook chicken that isn’t completely thawed. Doing so can result in uneven cooking, leading to bacterial growth.
  • Q: How Do I Know If The Chicken is Defrosted?
  • A: You can check if the chicken has defrosted by touching it to feel whether it’s pliable, checking it for no ice crystals, or ensuring that the innermost part of the chicken has thawed entirely.
  • Q: Can I Refreeze a Chicken Once It’s Thawed?
  • A: Yes, you can refreeze thawed chicken as long as you use it within two days of thawing.


1. USDA (2019). Safe Thawing Methods. Retrieved from

2. Michigan State University (2016). Thawing Basics. Retrieved from

3. Healthline (2018). How to Safely Thaw Chicken. Retrieved from

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