How should frozen chicken be thawed and handled prior to cooking?

Ideally, frozen chicken should be thawed in a refrigerator in its packaging. While defrosting, it should rest on a plate to avoid dripping. If consumers elect to thaw chicken in water, the chicken should be placed in a leak-proof bag, and the  water should be changed every 30 minutes to keep it cold.
Chicken can also be thawed on a plate in a microwave oven, though it should be cooked immediately thereafter. The reason is that some areas may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving, allowing surface bacteria to multiply if the bird is not cooked immediately. 
It is not advisable to thaw chicken on a counter. By the time the center thaws, surface temperatures generally have exceeded 40°, thereby promoting bacterial growth. 
Wash whole chickens inside and out and be sure to remove any innards such as kidneys, which are located against the back of the pelvis.
Immediately after the chicken is prepared, everything that the raw chicken touched--hands, counters, plates, and utensils—should be washed with warm water and soap.  The plate that the raw chicken was on must not be used for the cooked chicken.
USDA Fact Sheets "Focus On: Chicken"
Brewer, M.S. and Chapman-Novakofski, K. 2006.  Meat Safety for the Consumer, University of Illinois Extension.



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