You're ready to make a batch of wings for the big game, but there's a problem: You forgot to defrost the chicken. When you need to defrost chicken wings fast, microwaving them is the best way to go — provided you plan on cooking them right away.
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When you have a little more time, use other methods to thaw your wings that better maintain the food safety and the quality of your meat. Three safe methods of thawing are available: microwaving, thawing in cold water and thawing in the refrigerator.
Microwaving is a fast, safe way to defrost chicken wings.
Safe Thawing Prevents Foodborne Illness
You may want to make wings for your guests, but you don't want to get them sick in the process. Freezing to zero degrees Fahrenheit does deactivate bacteria and other microbes present in food, notes the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. But if you thaw your wings improperly, you can encourage these microbes to become active again, and to multiply.
The strains of bacteria most likely to develop on chicken wings include salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, E. coli and listeria monocytogenes. These can cause food poisoning, and the accompanying, uncomfortable digestive symptoms. These foodborne pathogens can even cause serious problems in vulnerable populations, such as the very young and the very old, and can require hospitalization, or even lead to death.
Never try defrosting chicken wings on the counter. Letting them sit out at room temperature causes bacteria to thrive. Rinsing your wings under running water to encourage them to thaw is also discouraged. Water does nothing to kill dangerous pathogens, but can spread them by splashing them all over your sink, utensils and kitchen counters.
Thaw Chicken Wings Right
A fast method for thawing chicken wings that also keeps you safe from foodborne illness involves placing the wings in a zipper-sealed plastic bag and immersing them in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes or so, until the wings are ready to use. This method takes 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the volume of meat.
Cook the wings right away, as soon as they thaw out. Refreeze them only after they've been cooked. Never put the wings directly into the water. This can encourage the development of microbes, and degenerates the meat, so you get a less-safe and less-pleasantly textured dish.
If cold water thawing is not quite quick enough for you, the microwave is an option. How long you need to microwave the wings and the power necessary depend on your particular model of microwave and also the amount of meat you're defrosting.
Remove all packaging and foam trays before thawing meat in a microwave, per Michigan State University Extension, and consult your manufacturer's directions for the most accurate guidance.
Parts of the wings, especially the tips, may start to cook during the thawing process. For this reason, use them in your recipe right away, notes the and don't refreeze them until after they've been cooked.
If you do have a little time, like several hours, or even a whole day, thaw the wings in the refrigerator. Spread out the frozen wings on a tray, so there's more surface area exposed to the new temperature, and they'll thaw faster.
Read more: Salt and Pepper Baked Wings
If you want to skip the hassle of thawing chicken wings, you can use frozen wings directly in recipes that cook them on the stove or in the oven. Allot about 50 percent more cooking time if you choose this method, notes the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Deep-frying frozen wings is possible, but discouraged in a home kitchen. The water in the frozen chicken reacts with the heat of the oil and splatters, causing a mess and possible injury. It's best to thaw chicken wings before frying.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Freezing and Food Safety"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Chicken Farm to Table"
- On the Gas: "Deep Frying Frozen Chicken Wings — The Secrets to Great Wings at Home"
- Michigan State University Extension: "The Big Thaw – Four Ways to Thaw Meat Safely"