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My Nemesis: Frozen Whole Chicken...

((Sigh, enter rant))...

I know better than to freeze whole chicken, because no matter what I try in terms of defrosting methods, the darn thing will never, ever properly defrost. I usually shop at a wholesale members only type vendor and get a great deal on two whole chickens 5lbs each for $9-10 (compared to the $8-10 for the same size for just one chicken at my local grocery store). Normally because my horrible luck with defrosting them once I freeze them = I cook both within a few days of each other for various meals and/or dinner then freeze whatever we don't use once its all carved up etc. Well the last time I purchased some chickens a few months back, I wasn't able to do this and wound up having to freeze one of them (and I beyond dread doing this because of my luck).

With all that being said, after doing some major shopping a week ago at the wholesaler - I needed to make some room in my freezer and took out the whole chicken unused from months ago along with about maybe 6 pounds of chicken thighs to defrost and cook up. For the record, all this chicken (in its original packagining) was put into my fridge to defrost back on the early evening of 3/12/2013 in the bottom drawer of my fridge (as that was the last "best suggestion" given to me to resolve my luck with defrosting whole chicken).

Well, I've checked daily and come today a week later the damn whole chicken is still mostly frozen a tad softer than a rock, but the thighs seem finally mostly defrosted. So while I've pretty much given up on ever getting a frozen whole chicken to properly defrost, my question to you good people is whether or not the whole chicken is still good to cook? I think the thighs are ok as when I checked them yesterday they were mostly solid; today they are finally a bit pliable. I've been searching the net and a lot of the guidance I've found is that if its been defrosting for a week its bad even if still mostly frozen. I don't want to waste it - so I thought I'd put it up here for discussion and advice from the good people of Chow. Given what I've read online for cases like this, I'm unsure of whether or not it still being frozen would indicate its still ok to use. I'm scared of Salmonella poisioning not because i'm overly cautious/paranoid - but rather because I had the extreme displeasure of eating smoked salmon that was contaminated late last year and was violently ill with Salmonella to then find out a few days later that it had been recalled for the same. I've never been that sick in my life, so I don't even, ever want to repeat that level of illness, I can't even fathom eating smoked salmon ever again or at least anytime soon because of the vivid memories it brings. So what do you think? Mostly hard/frozen still safe or no because of extended exposure to below freezing temperatures? Many thanks in advance everyone!

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  1. You raise too many concerns for me to answer.......other than to say defrost, cook and eat.

    1. your fridge is too cold, it is probably just above freezing temperature. If it's still frozen, it is fine to eat, though. salt it tonight, cook it tomorrow.

      2 Replies
        1. re: magiesmom

          This is what I think too.

          You can leave the chicken out on the counter or in the sink for awhile, then replace it in the fridge.

          Check your fridge's thermostat to see where it is set.

      1. The chicken is very likely fine. Whether it's frozen in the freezer or frozen in the fridge, frozen is frozen (yes, I know that even frozen, temperature affects the biological activity of water, so frozen is frozen is not technically correct, but that doesn't affect the situation here).

        The problem with defrosting chicken is that chicken is lean - mostly water. Fattier meats "thaw" quickly, because fat has a lower freezing point. Chickens can be tough to thaw because it's essentially thawing a 6 lb block of ice wrapped in a thin layer of insulation (skin with subcutaneous fat).

        Best way I've found of thawing a whole chicken is to: first keep it on the counter for several hours to bring it from really frozen to a little less frozen, then pop it in the warmest place in the fridge that you can fit it (front, middle shelf for me) for about 2 days or so. Then once it's semi thawed, I stick it in the sink and run cold water into the cavity (the cavity is the slowedt to thaw I've found). I've never had trouble with a chicken thawing it that way. Some people are also a lot more...cautious...with chicken than I am.

        1. I agree with those who say you first need to check your fridge temps, and at various places. You need only thaw it below 40 degrees. No need to put it in the coldest place if you're trying to thaw it!

          My fastest way to thaw a whole chicken: I have a double sink, so I fill one sink with COLD water and the chicken, keep a slow stream of water going into that sink, and if your sink is designed and leveled properly, the excess water will slowly overflow into the adjacent (unstoppered) sink before it will overflow onto the countertop. Do this water "convection" for an hour or so--yes, this means running a slow stream of water into the sink for an hour--and then consider opening the chicken packaging and removing the innards, etc, and put it back in the sink all naked another hour or so, still with the stream of water. By that time, it's ready to put into the fridge on a platter and let it air dry some. Couldn't hurt to salt it liberally at this point, to get some dry-brine effects. A couple of hours later, you should be good to go for a typical 4.5 pound chicken. That's a thawed whole chicken in 4 hours and change.

          Be sure to sanitize your sinks carefully afterward.

          This is not the ideal, but it works.

          p.s., as long as I feel the time and temp parameters are not too long, I also go with countertop or even short-burst warm water soaks. All depends on your hurry. But be vigilent.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bada Bing

            Running the water is not necessary. Put a frozen chicken or turkey, wrapped or un, into a very large pot of cold water. If you don't have one big enough, a clean bucket lined with a plastic bag before filling with cold water. Leave it for a few hours. The chicken will be evenly thawed. If you are nervous about it, take the temp of the water now and then. As long as it doesn't go above 40F for a prolonged period (it won't), it can't possibly spoil. Ideally, you would put a rack or some cookie cutters on the bottom of the pot so water can circulate fully, and another rack, weighted down, atop the bird to keep it fully submerged. This works with meat as well, though in that case you want the meat in watertight wrapping as it thaws. If thawing poultry or pork, you can also opt to do it unwrapped, in a salted/seasoned brine.

            1. re: greygarious

              Yes, running water is not necessary, but--as I recall from some Alton Brown food sciencey sketch--it does make it quicker. The water convection speeds the process, for reasons I still don't exactly understand.

              1. re: Bada Bing

                More movement means faster heat transfer.

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  I'm guessing too that the cold bird will make the water cold too, whereas running water will stay the temp of running water.

                  But you could just change the water a few times and water the lawn with it.

            2. Evrything everybody else said, plus when you cook it, make sure you cook the breast to 170 deg F and the dark meat to 180.

              7 Replies
              1. re: junescook

                Breast meat will be way overcooked and dry at 170 degrees F. Instead, cook it to 150 degrees F. It's perfectly safe at that temperature and very moist as well.

                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                  I've never had a dried-out chicken at 170.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    A better way to put it would have been:

                    "Breast meat will be way overcooked and relatively dry at 170 degrees F. "

                    It will not be dry as in completely devoid of all moisture, but it will be much less moist than a breast cooked to 20 degrees F less at an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.

                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                      Mine are always very juicy -- not even close to dried out.

                      I use Joy of Cooking's Turned Roasted Chicken -- perfectly moist chicken every time.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I agree that it's possible to produce still moist chicken at 170... though I think that's taking a risk with breast meat. 180 is really too much for any part, just IMO, though with brined chicken you definitely get some leeway.

                        I prefer to take it out about 10 degrees lower and let it rest a bit.

                        1. re: mcf

                          yes -- 180 is definitely too high.