Chicken wings are the go-to snack to enjoy while watching a big sporting event — and they make for a tasty utensil-less dinner. There's only one problem: You forgot to take the wings out of the freezer ahead of time and are now faced with the dilemma of quickly thawing them to keep mealtime on schedule.
If you have frozen chicken wings on hand but need them defrosted, like, two hours ago, there's still hope. We spoke with Susy Massetti, a professional chef, restaurant owner and farmer on the fastest way to defrost chicken wings safely.
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You can also skip defrosting your wings altogether! Cooking them from frozen is perfectly safe, but note that it'll take about 1 1/2 times longer to cook, per the USDA.
Should You Defrost Chicken Wings in the Microwave?
While it's certainly possible to zap your frozen chicken in the microwave for a few minutes, this isn't recommended for reasons related to safety and texture.
Microwaving meat and poultry can leave cold spots where bacteria can survive, according to the USDA. And this method may not yield the best results.
"Microwaving your wings for a few minutes might defrost them super quickly. This can also alter the texture of the meat, making it very tough. Therefore, I recommend against it," Massetti says.
Instead, Massetti recommends defrosting frozen chicken wings in cold water — she says this method yields the best results when it comes to texture.
Never leave wings on the countertop to defrost — doing so raises your risk of foodborne illness, per the USDA.
How to Defrost Chicken Wings Quickly and Safely
Things You'll Need
Frozen chicken wings
Large glass or ceramic bowl
1. Place Frozen Chicken Wings in a Non-Reactive Bowl
The fastest but safest way to defrost frozen chicken wings is by giving them a bath with cold water, according to Massetti. This is easily done by submerging the frozen chicken in cold water for a short period of time.
You absolutely need a non-reactive bowl for this step: This means it's made of a material that won't chemically react with the food placed in the bowl. Massetti recommends a large bowl made of glass or ceramic.
Frozen food thawed using this method should be placed in leak-proof packaging or a plastic bag, according to the USDA. This prevents the food from being exposed to bacteria in the surrounding environment. The chicken wings could also absorb water if submerged directly into water, resulting in watery chicken.
To get started giving the frozen wings a cold bath, simply place the frozen chicken into the bowl, ensuring that their plastic cover is tightly sealed.
2. Cover Frozen Chicken Wings With Cold Water
After placing the frozen wings into a large glass or ceramic bowl, it's time to fill it up with cold water. It may be most efficient to leave the bowl in the sink and use the kitchen faucet to cover the wings with an abundant amount of cold water.
There’s a misconception that defrosting food should be done with warm or hot water instead of cold water. The reason for using cold water isn’t because it’s faster, but because it’s safer. Using warm or hot water raises the temperature of the raw food, which allows bacteria to grow, per the USDA.
Never use hot water to defrost food. Use cold water to keep temperatures low enough to prevent bacteria from growing but slightly warmer than frozen temperatures so the meat can thaw.
3. Wait for Frozen Chicken Wings to Thaw
Massetti recommends allowing the chicken to defrost for about 20 to 30 minutes in cold water. This time can vary depending on the amount of chicken you're defrosting. Large batches of frozen wings can take up to multiple hours to thaw in cold water.
Because chicken wings are smaller than large whole chickens, they should require less time to thaw. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes.
4. Pat Dry
When the wings are defrosted, remove them from the cold water bath. Dump out the water, place the bowl aside and remove the wings from the package or plastic bag.
Pat the wings dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. (This step is optional but recommended by Massetti if you want crispy chicken wings.)
5. Season, Cook and Serve Immediately
Once raw meat or poultry has been thawed, it must be cooked immediately. Proceed by seasoning and cooking the meat using your desired chicken wings recipe. Toss in buffalo sauce to make buffalo wings or dip them into ranch dressing.