How Long to Defrost Cooked Chicken in Microwave

As the clock ticks away, our hunger often grows impatient, especially when faced with a frosty block of cooked chicken that demands time to thaw.

Fear not, for the microwave stands ready as your ally in this daily kitchen battle. But how do you harness its power to avoid the dreaded cold center or overheated edges?

In this guide, I'll share the secrets to mastering the microwave's defrost function, ensuring your chicken is perfectly prepped for a delicious revival on your dinner table.

Key Takeaways

  • Microwave defrosting uses electromagnetic waves to thaw frozen cooked chicken.
  • Adjust the microwave to the 'defrost' or 30-50% power setting to prevent cooking the chicken.
  • Use approximately 9 minutes per pound as a guideline for defrosting cooked chicken.
  • Regularly check the chicken for consistent thawing and ensure all parts are above 40°F (4°C) before consuming or storing.

Understanding Microwave Defrosting

Microwave defrosting utilizes electromagnetic waves to diminish ice crystals in frozen cooked chicken, offering a swift and convenient method for thawing. Activating the defrost cycle causes the microwave to emit waves that permeate the chicken, causing water molecules to vibrate and generate heat through molecular friction. This technique, known as dielectric heating, warms the ice within the chicken, causing it to change from solid to liquid.

For uniform thawing, it's important to place the chicken on a dish suitable for microwave use, and to periodically turn and flip it. Adjust the defrost setting to the one designed for poultry. Be aware of your microwave's power level, as units with higher wattage will thaw in less time.

Always adhere to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer to avoid overheating and to ensure the chicken is thawed to a flexible state without beginning to cook.

Preparing Your Chicken for Microwaving

Before placing your already-cooked chicken in the microwave to thaw, make sure to remove it from any packaging that isn't suitable for microwaving and place it on a dish that can be used in the microwave. Place the chicken on a dish crafted from glass or ceramic, as these substances are safe and don't react with microwaves. Steer clear of metals and certain plastics that might melt or release chemicals into your food when exposed to high temperatures.

Distribute the chicken pieces uniformly to facilitate even thawing. If they're stuck together, try to separate them as much as possible. Use a lid designated for microwave use or a simple paper towel to cover the dish, which helps to retain moisture and assists in an even thaw. The cover also helps to prevent any splatter, maintaining the cleanliness of your microwave.

With these steps, your chicken is ready for a thorough and secure thawing process in the microwave.

Setting the Microwave Properly

Make sure you adjust your microwave to the 'defrost' or 30-50% power setting to avoid heating the chicken too much while it thaws. Microwaves produce electromagnetic waves that excite water molecules, creating heat through friction. Using full power can quickly raise the temperature of the chicken, leading to it cooking instead of thawing.

Choosing a lower power setting reduces the energy released, allowing for a slower and more even defrosting process.

Consult your microwave's instruction book for a specific 'defrost' function, which alternates power on and off to replicate a lower continuous power. If your appliance lacks this feature, change the power setting manually. Uniform thawing is crucial to prevent bacterial growth, making it important to select the correct setting.

Optimal Defrosting Times

After setting your microwave to the correct low-power defrost mode, you'll need to calculate the best time for thawing your cooked chicken. The duration required for defrosting varies with the weight and thickness of the chicken. Use about 9 minutes per pound as a guideline for defrosting cooked chicken. Adjust the duration if your microwave's wattage isn't the typical 1000 watts.

For pieces under a pound, begin with 2 minutes, then add time in 30-second intervals, checking to ensure the temperature is even throughout.

Check the chicken at intervals to avoid overheating. Once defrosted, the chicken should be cool to the touch. If the chicken starts to feel warm, stop defrosting. The goal is to defrost without cooking the chicken, keeping safety at the forefront.

Checking Chicken for Even Thawing

Regularly check your uncooked chicken by pressing gently into its thickest section to evaluate if it has thawed consistently. Inconsistent thawing may result in areas where bacteria can multiply, increasing the risk of food-related illnesses. Microwaves mightn't always heat evenly, so it's essential to verify that no sections of the chicken are still icy.

Should you detect spots that feel hard and icy, continue the thawing process. Utilize the microwave's defrost feature in brief bursts, inspecting the chicken after each. Rotating or stirring the chicken to alter its position relative to the microwave's energy helps promote uniform temperature distribution throughout the meat.

Post-Defrosting Safety Measures

After thawing your cooked chicken in the microwave, it's essential to handle it with care to avoid bacterial growth and maintain food safety.

Inspect the temperature of the chicken immediately. If any parts remain frozen or are below 40°F (4°C), there's a risk of bacteria growing. If needed, continue thawing in the microwave.

Once completely thawed, you should eat the chicken within two hours or store it in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or lower to reduce the chance of bacterial development. Defrosted chicken shouldn't be left at room temperature for over two hours.

Reheat the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before eating to kill any bacteria that may be present. Always check temperatures with a food thermometer for precise readings.

Handling thawed foods with caution is a top priority for health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Refreeze Chicken That Has Been Defrosted in the Microwave if I Decide Not to Use It Immediately?

It's unsafe to refreeze chicken thawed in a microwave unless you cook it first, due to the risk of bacterial growth. Always heat to a safe internal temperature before refreezing.

How Does the Wattage of My Microwave Affect the Defrosting Time for Cooked Chicken?

Your microwave's wattage is the hidden conductor of the defrosting symphony; higher wattage means quicker thawing, so adjust your defrost time accordingly to prevent overheating your cooked chicken. It's a precise science.

What Are the Risks of Defrosting Cooked Chicken in the Microwave Versus Other Methods?

Defrosting chicken in the microwave risks uneven heating, which can cause bacteria growth. You're better off using a fridge or cold water for a safer, more consistent thaw. Always check for cold spots.

Can I Use the Microwave to Defrost Chicken That Is in a Vacuum-Sealed Bag?

You shouldn't microwave vacuum-sealed bags; they can create a hazard. Instead, remove the chicken from the bag and use a microwave-safe dish to defrost it safely and effectively.

How Can I Minimize the Loss of Moisture and Flavor When Defrosting Cooked Chicken in the Microwave?

To minimize moisture loss while defrosting chicken in the microwave, defrost on low power in short bursts, checking periodically, and use a microwave-safe cover to retain heat and prevent drying.


You've now navigated the icy labyrinth of microwave defrosting, carefully steering your cooked chicken from its frosty slumber to readiness with scientific precision. Remember, your microwave is the key that unlocks the chill, transforming it into a pliable treasure ready for culinary adventures.

Check your chicken's warmth as if testing the waters of a mysterious lake, ensuring no icy undercurrents remain.

Finally, bask in the safety of your defrosting prowess, as your meal re-enters the realm of the edible, perfectly thawed and safe.

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