How to Thaw Frozen Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are a great option for a dinner meal. Especially while watching a sports event like Sunday football or college basketball’s March Madness. Wings are also super flexible and can be covered in just about any sauce, provided they are thawed and can more easily absord sauce.

Wings tend to be bought either frozen or super chilled. Buyers of chicken wings also often freeze them after purchasing for later use in a recipe. Freezing the wings also makes them more available for longer. What about thawing those frozen chicken wings?

Frozen chicken wings can be thawed using the fridge, microwave, or by leaving them out. All these methods will work for preparing your wings. Methods like the fridge are the best for reasons we will describe below.

Thawing frozen chicken wings in the fridge

While you actually can bake or cook chicken wings directly from frozen, you’ll often find getting started a little difficult. Grocery store soften pack chicken wings in a frozen styrofoam block that make separating them rather difficult. 

Part of the intent behind thawing chicken wings is simply being able to separate the wings. Otherwise, they will cook quite uneven.

So, step by step

  1. Remove the chicken wing container from the freezer
  2. Put the chicken wing container in the fridge. Ensure the fridge is set for below 40 degrees, which most fridges generally are.
  3. The chicken should thaw in a few hours or overnight. 
  4. The chicken is thawed when you touch the chicken and it has some movement. Another option is to see if the chicken parts are separating. The most accurate way of knowing the chicken is thawed is to check the temperature – the temperature should be below 40 degrees if thawed.
  5. When the chicken either feels right or is verified by temperature measurement, remove it and cook.
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The fridge is one of the best ways to thaw as a properly functioning fridge assures that the chicken will remain at the right temperature.

Thawing frozen chicken wings on the counter

Placing the chicken wings somewhere at room temperature is your next best option. The thaw is a bit faster than thawing in the fridge.

  1. Remove the frozen chicken wings from the fridge
  2. If the chicken is in a styrofoam container, then consider putting a plate or paper towel underneath in case it leaks.
  3. Using the same method as suggested for #4 above with the fridge, check the temperature or texture of the chicken.
  4. Once the chicken is the right temperature, you can cook it.

Chicken wings can thaw in a few hours. We also wouldn’t suggest the chicken on the counter overnight. Leaving the chicken on the counter overnight might lead to the chicken getting too warm – or above 40.

The largest potential issue is that letting the chicken getting too warm without first cooking can lead to bacteria. The bacteria that quickly builds up over the course of hours can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. It’s not worth risking food poisoning for the purpose of leaving your food out overnight.

Thawing frozen chicken wings in the microwave

The microwave. The fastest cooker in your kitchen. The microwave isn’t a bad thing at all, but it’s not ideal for maintaining quality in much of anything.

  1. Remove the frozen chicken wings from the fridge
  2. Place the frozen chicken wings on a microwave safe plate
  3. Most microwaves have a defrost setting. Some of these defrost settings ask for the weight of the chicken. Check the packaging for the chicken to see the weight.
  4. If it doesn’t have a defrost setting, set the power to 50% and begin thawing.
  5. Microwaves with an auto defrost setting will remind you when they turn the chicken over or flip it. Manually, switch it every couple of minutes
  6. Once the auto defrost is done, check the temperature and touch of the wings. If they don’t feel done, put them back in the microwave and continue to run.
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The microwave is the fastest, but likely lowest quality way of thawing chicken. Microwaves get hot fast and can reduce the quality of the meat, potentially turning it soft and chewy. 

Thaw under water

Thawing with water takes a couple of methods.

Running water

  1. Remove the frozen chicken wings from the fridge
  2. If the chicken wings are packaged in a way that allows, you can separate them to place in a separate container.
  3. If the chicken wings are packaced and frozen into a lump of wings, or aren’t separated, put the entire package in a waterproof container.
  4. Place the container on the sink, raised on a grate if possible.
  5. Turn on the cold water. Let the cold water run and flow into the drain
  6. Remove the chicken from the sink and see if it is thawed
  7. Place it back in under the water stream

Cold water bath

  1. Place the frozen chicken wings in a pot or large bowl
  2. Fill the bowl or pot with cold water
  3. Allow the chicken to sit in the cold water
  4. Wait a few hours. Check to see if it’s thawed.
  5. Once thawed, cook it!

You do have the option to run water directly on the chicken though it could become oversaturated and soft. Probably not the way you want your chicken.

Both methods can be faster than using the fridge, though not faster than just leaving the chicken out. The cold water method allows for control of the water temperature, though you do need to actively watch the chicken to ensure the right thaw.

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The importance of thawing right

Thawing correctly is important both because they maintain the quality of chicken. More importantly, nearly all meats can build up bacteria quickly, getting worse as the chicken gets warmer. You can get sick easily from salmonella and other bacteria, like staph.

While you might be tempted to make chicken that is not properly thawed or over warm in a pinch. It’s not worth the risk.


Thawing chicken can be quick and easy. Using your fridge is the easiest way though it takes the longest. Water methods can do the trick with little effort. The microwave is great for a quick thaw, though it reduces the quality by the most.

Think about your spices and marinades and worry less about thawing when using the instructions provided above.