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A Fast Way to Defrost a Chicken

May 21, 1987|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

Recently I rediscovered the automatic defrosting feature on my microwave oven. It had been a busy day in the kitchen. I needed to defrost chicken for supper but didn't have the time to do it the usual way.

To microwave-defrost chicken, it's necessary to know how much the chicken weighs. Set the microwave on DEFROST (30% to 50% power), figuring seven to eight minutes per pound. After half the defrosting time has elapsed, turn the chicken over and unwrap it, if necessary. After the total defrosting time has passed, separate the chicken pieces. If necessary, return to the microwave for an additional minute or two.

Defrosting chicken in the microwave is much faster than the conventional method. Automatic defrosting is even more convenient. The automatic defrosting feature, which is now on many mid-line and top-of-the-line microwave ovens, requires only that you know the weight of the chicken and that you turn the chicken over at a specified time. The oven figures out the timing for you and even sounds a beep when it is time to turn the chicken over.

Why, you might ask, does defrosting require so much attention? Because ice absorbs microwave energy at a much slower rate than liquid does. This means that, after partial defrosting, the already thawed, juicy areas on chicken are much more attractive to microwaves than the still-frozen areas. This phenomenon can cause "hot spots."

To prevent uneven defrosting, the power level must be lowered to slow down the rate of microwaving. When this is done automatically, many power levels can be used to produce similar or even better thawing while requiring less attention from the user.

It seemed to take a long time to automatically defrost my chicken. After I "told" the oven that my meat was chicken (I did this by touching a code taken from a chart on the oven) and that the weight of the chicken was 3.4 pounds (taken from the package label; specific weights in tenths of a pound help the oven to time itself accurately), I touched the "start" button. With my oven, the total defrosting time was slightly more than 40 minutes--about 12 minutes longer than it would have been had I defrosted the chicken the manual microwave way. After the defrosting was over, the oven programmed an additional "hold" time of a few more minutes. The feature saved me the time it might have taken to consult a cookbook for the proper minutes per pound as well as the chore of multiplying minutes per pound by the actual weight of the bird.

When the chicken was defrosted, I microwaved it in the fresh Lemon Teriyaki Sauce that follows. As an accompaniment, I served Broccoli With Nippy Mayonnaise.

This recipe works well with four chicken leg/thigh quarters. After defrosting, cut through the joints to separate the legs from the thighs, then remove the skin.


Juice and grated peel of 1 large lemon

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons mustard powder

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, skinned

1 cup diced celery

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

Combine lemon juice and peel, soy sauce, sugar, mustard and garlic in small bowl. In 12x8-inch dish, arrange chicken with meatiest parts down and toward edges of dish. (Placing meatiest areas down allows most contact with sauce.) Sprinkle with celery and evenly pour sauce over pieces. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH (100% power) 22 to 26 minutes, until no pink remains in chicken. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in 2-cup microwave-safe bowl or casserole, mix cornstarch and water. Add 1 cup drippings from chicken (strain out seasonings, if desired). Microwave at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute, until thickened and clear. Serve over chicken. Makes 4 servings.

Note : Sometimes when microwaving freshly defrosted chicken, the meatiest pieces may not be done at the same time as smaller pieces. If this happens, remove smaller pieces to serving plate and continue cooking meatier pieces a few minutes. Reducing amount of chicken in cooking dish makes larger pieces cook faster and prevents small pieces from overcooking.


1 bunch broccoli, about 1 pound

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Trim tough ends of broccoli stalks. Slice stalks into 2-quart microwave-safe casserole, reserving florets. Add onion and water to sliced stalks in casserole. Cover and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 4 to 6 minutes, just until barely tender.

Stir in reserved florets and continue microwaving at HIGH 3 to 5 minutes, until all broccoli pieces are bright green and tender-crisp. Add butter and toss until melted, then add mayonnaise and horseradish and toss until well blended. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

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