Since You Asked: Bypass the slow road with frozen chicken

I was planning to cook some diced chicken for burritos when I got home, but I forgot to thaw the boneless chicken breasts. I put them in the slow cooker with some water so they would thaw and cook while I was at work. Was that the right thing to do?

— Donald M., Eagle Point

Unfortunately, it wasn't. It's never a good idea to put frozen chicken in a slow cooker. The cooker is designed to cook at a lower temperature, so the center of the chicken could stay at an unsafe temperature for too long, increasing the risk that bacteria would grow.

There are only three ways recommended to thaw chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. If you use the microwave, you must be able to cook the thawed chicken immediately because some areas will get warm enough for bacterial growth.

The refrigerator means planning ahead because it can take as long as 24 hours to thaw even boneless chicken, and a couple of days for a whole, bone-in chicken.

Submerging smaller cuts of bagged or wrapped meat in cold water is the simplest way to thaw. It works quickly, usually thawing skinless, boneless chicken in 30 minutes or so.

Because you were away from home all day, the best choice in this case probably would have been to move the chicken breasts to the refrigerator before you left.

They wouldn't have been completely thawed by the end of the day, but they would have softened enough to easily cut them into bite-sized pieces. Then you could have cooked them by sauteing or microwaving to continue with your meal plans.

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