Let’s face it, poultry in the kitchen is a dangerous game. On the plus side, it offers a versatile and quick meat protein option. Any person who cooks on weeknights or practices meal planning has a powerful ally in chicken breasts. They can be baked, grilled or fried, they go well with sauces, salsas, spices, soups, salads and any other complement that begins with an s, or that doesn’t.
But greatness carries burden, and, in the case of chicken, it is a big one. Poultry in general is vulnerable to fast development of bacteria, the kind of organisms responsible for salmonella poisonings and the like. It is vital to know how to manage chicken.
The first thing, or maybe second, is defrosting it. Popular techniques include looking for a ray of sunlight and bathing the chicken in it for as long as needed. A less than ideal method since it gets chicken in the temperature sweet spot for the growth of bacteria. That is a recipe for disease.
How to Defrost Chicken the Right Way?
The best method is kind of a passive one also. To best defrost chicken, you should put it in the fridge a day before cooking. The problem is that applying this method takes a lot of time, and weeknight instant chefs don’t always have the time or the foresight necessary. So, if time is not of help, it might be better to either cook it directly from freezing or defrost it in the oven, microwave or electric.
Is it safe to cook chicken straight from the freezer?
Throwing the chicken in a pot of hot water right after you take it out of the ice box is safe as long as you make sure it is cooked completely when you finish. This guarantees that the meat will pass directly between two relatively safe conditions, frozen and cooked, while spending little time in the temperature frame that causes bacteria to develop, that is 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit or 5 to 60 degrees Celsius.
While it is safe to cook chicken like this, it isn’t that enjoyable from a taste point of view. If the meat goes into boiling water, it’s all right. At some point, it is possible to add condiments or vegetables to the broth and give it some actual taste. But, if the breast is put in the oven, it has to go all the way to cooked without much chance to spice or season it, meaning you will get a terribly boring and tasteless meal.
Defrost Chicken with Microwave & Oven
Some microwave and electric ovens have a defrost function which is a good option. The best way to use them is with meat sliced in one or two-inch thick pieces. It is a good idea to bring the chicken at about three quarters of defrosting, taking it out, seasoning it and then cooking it however one sees fit. If the chicken is left at defrost for too long, it will begin to cook at the edges.
Are those the only methods?
Are there other methods on how to defrost chicken? Yes, you can also defrost chicken with cold water. Not by putting it directly under cold water, since that is, well, an enormous waste, and depending on your running water service, a huge bacteria slide. Ideally, you would put the meat inside a sealed bag with all the air pushed out. Then, submerge the bag under cold water.
It’s important that water stays cold, so you may have to change it a couple of times over the two or three hours it can take to thaw chicken this way. This method does the same thing as the overnight refrigerator process, it cools the chicken below freezing, but keeps it out of the bacteria danger zone.
But what about freezing it?
That is actually the first thing you need to know about. Freezing chicken goes beyond putting it in the ice box the moment you get home from the supermarket.
You should consider size. Defrosting any kind of meat and then freezing it again is another terrible idea, if you are going to thaw something, you have to cook all of it as soon as possible. There lies the importance of meal planning. If ending up with more cooked chicken than expected is not an option, chicken should be sliced beforehand. The faster the meat goes from supermarket fridge to cutting board to freezer, the better.
Speaking of which, it is very important to take chicken out from the supermarket package it came in. The best option is using a zipper bag with all the air taken out, one for each slice, of course. If stored in this manner, the edible life of your meat is, in fact, quite long. While the time a piece of poultry can survive frozen while still being edible is indefinite, a good rule of thumb is the appearance of the meat when unfrozen. If it looks leathery and gray, eating it is not recommendable, but if it looks and smells, smell is an important tell with poultry, all right, then cooking it for serving should be safe.
Another Chicken Storage Method
Another way to package it for storing is an aluminum paper wrapping, this will prevent freezer burns, a kind of frostbite that food gets which makes it taste somewhat rotten after cooking.
Chicken doesn’t really need to be washed before cutting and freezing it. In fact, putting raw chicken under the running water can splash bacteria over the counter or board where it is going to be cut, and thus rendering it unsafe.
Are those the only things to keep in mind?
For the most part, yes. Even if that’s the case, it is recommendable to be judicious with some basic measures like hand and utensil washing.
It is also to be noticed that the edible life of all poultry once it’s cooked and stored in the fridge, never freeze cooked meat, is quite short. Chicken goes bad four or five days after cooked. So even if you know how to defrost chicken, it shouldn’t be cooked chicken that is kept for so long.
Now that is all, cook safe and meal plan.