Frozen food is so convenient for a lot of people. You can buy it in advance before you actually intend to consume it. Some people can do food planning weeks before they actually need to just by freezing a lot of food, provided it is safe to do so.
Chicken is easily one of the most popular foods to freeze due to how versatile and commonly used it is in a kitchen. Yet when you forget to take it out of the freezer on the day you intend to use it, things can get complicated as you desperately try to break chicken pieces off of each other to try and speed defrost them.
What Frozen Chicken Needs Separating?
While a lot of chicken may not stick to each other, the bags of chicken breasts or cuts of chicken pieces will often stick to each other as they are loose in the bag. When freezing drumsticks or wings, the plastic packaging they come in usually separates them enough to the point that they do not freeze together.
If you do have bags of loose chicken then it is possible that they have frozen together. They will need separating if you want to only use a few of the pieces.
If you intend on using the whole bag and have enough prep time, you can leave the bag to naturally thaw on the side. If you only need a few pieces and not the whole bag, then it might be difficult to separate the pieces.
You have to be careful using heat. If you accidentally partially cook any of the other pieces, then they will not be safe for refreezing.
Different Ways to Separate Frozen Chicken
There are a few different methods on how to separate frozen chicken.
Some of them can be a bit tedious but for the most part, they will all help out in a pinch.
There is a variety of methods all utilizing different things. So if you do not have everything on hand, you should still be able to find a method that works for you.
Similar to cooking chicken, the different ways of defrosting it can have a huge impact on the flavor and quality of the chicken.
Separate Frozen Chicken Using a Microwave
While it may seem a bit unhealthy to use a microwave in this instance, it is surprisingly okay. The benefits of using a microwave are that the steps are so simple and hassle-free. They are also quite quick for anyone who is in a rush.
Some microwaves will have a defrost mode which can be used here. But even if yours does not, you can still use the microwave. You will want to place your chicken on a microwave-safe plate or in a microwave-safe container.
If you do not have a defrost mode then you should be extra cautious about not letting it heat for too long. Despite this, you will want to blast your chicken for 10 seconds. After, check to see if it is thawed enough to separate or break apart. If it is not yet ready, throw it back in for another 10 seconds. Repeat this until the ice is melted enough that you can separate the pieces.
The main issue with using the microwave is that if you wanted to refreeze any of the pieces that have been heated, then you will not be able to. Chicken is prone to growing and spreading a lot of bacteria if heated up and then frozen again.
It is not recommended so whatever you put in the microwave should be what you intend on consuming that day.
Separate Frozen Chicken using Cold Water
While not as fast as using a microwave, this method allows you to thaw the chicken enough to separate the pieces you intend on using. You can then safely put the rest of the pieces back in the freezer.
This method is insanely easy. It only requires a sink with running cold water. A butter knife may be used later to help separate the pieces but is not essential.
Remove all the packaging from your chicken so you are holding a block of ice with chicken inside. If you are trying to do this to a large batch of chicken then you can shut the sink plug. Then lay the chicken down on the bottom of the sink, assuming it is clean enough to do so.
Run the chicken under the cold water and focus on the parts of ice that you want to get rid of. The water will slowly unfreeze the ice without thawing the chicken.
After a while of doing this, you can use your butter knife to penetrate the ice and leverage it enough to break them apart. If the ice is not melted enough for this to be a possibility then you will need to run it under the water for a bit longer.
Make sure to be careful when using a knife to do this. Ice is slippery and you can slip and injure yourself. If you have access to them, rubber gloves can help you keep a sure grip on the ice.
Separate Frozen Chicken in a Fridge
If you have a bit more time and can prepare for this, then you can carelessly leave the chicken in the fridge overnight or throughout the day.
You can leave your chicken in the fridge in the original packaging and just wait until the ice starts to melt. It will take longer than other methods because a fridge is not too much warmer than a freezer, but it is gradual and very safe for anyone who is paranoid about refreezing chicken.
The average fridge is set at 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit which will take about a day to melt the ice. Once it is melted enough, you can separate the pieces of chicken you want to use. Then put the rest back in the freezer without any need to worry.
Separate Frozen Chicken using Hot Water
This method is a lot quicker than using cold water. It is best for people without a microwave who are still in a rush.
Hot water is known to enhance the chances of bacteria growth on the chicken, which makes this a bit of a problem if you intend on placing any of the pieces of chicken back in the freezer.
However, there is a method that is very safe that won approval from the USDA. It will only take between 3-5 minutes for this to be done so the bacteria growth is at a safe limit and will not be an issue.
To start off, you will want to place your chicken in a zip-lock or airtight bag. This will ensure that the water does not find its way inside.
You will now want to heat up some water to 140 degrees F. This is easier if you have a meat thermometer so that you can find the exact temperature. But if not you can measure how much water you are using and find out how long that will take to boil.
Once you have your water heated to 140 degrees, you can pour it into a bowl. This bowl must be big enough for both the water and the chicken. Submerge the chicken into the water as soon as possible. This way, it does not cool down and let it sit for three minutes.
The pieces should now be able to break apart or be wedged apart with a knife.
Alternative Methods to Separate Frozen Chicken
These methods are less calculated and fit under the term ‘brute force’ yet they work just as well.
The structural integrity of chicken is stronger than ice. So if you place the chicken inside of a plastic bag you can hit it on a hard surface. This will crack the ice but most likely not the chicken.
Alternatively, you can instead use a knife and scrape away at the ice. Chisel it until you can separate the pieces. This method is relatively dangerous depending on what sort of knife you use. So be careful and use rubber gloves to help you grip the ice.
Proper tools can be bought to help with this such as culinary band saws and meat saws. These take some skill to use without any risk so it is best left to the professionals.
What Chicken Can You Refreeze?
You can safely refreeze chicken as long as it follows these conditions;
- After being fully defrosted, the chicken was cooked
- If thawed in the fridge, the chicken can be frozen again within two days
- If the chicken is only partially defrosted, it can be safely placed back in the freezer
The circumstances that mean you should not refreeze the chicken again are:
- If it was defrosted in the microwave
- If you used hot water and it got on the chicken
What is the Best Method For Defrosting Chicken
The best method overall would be to let it sit in the fridge and naturally defrost. If you are looking for the quickest way to defrost it then the microwave is going to be perfect for you. If you are intending on refreezing some of the chicken while also being on a time limit, using cold water is the best option for you.
FAQs on Seperating Frozen Chicken
It can be considered relatively safe, although once at room temperature it is the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. If you want the safest way to defrost chicken then you should leave it in the fridge.