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There are some situations where rules are not totally for suckers. Safety rules like wearing a seatbelt or bike helmet come to mind as good rules to follow. No one wants to get hurt if they don’t have to. Practicing food safety is another one. Because really, no one wants food poisoning either! Do you?

I know full-well all of the principles of food safety. I took a semester-long college course on it for goodness sake! But there are some times where I still try to cut corners EVEN though I know better. I’m sure you’ve done the same too. Sometimes you know absolutely everything you should do, but something inexplicable gets in the way of doing the right thing.

When it comes to defrosting chicken, there are a few rules that should be followed. Otherwise, you risk getting sick or dealing with a big mess. Luckily, I’ve only experienced the big mess. Here’s how you can avoid it altogether.

Defrost Chicken the Right Way

This is the way you’re supposed to do things:
1. The safest way to defrost frozen meat, poultry, or fish is to move it to the refrigerator so it can slowly defrost at a safe temperature overnight. Sometimes it takes a few days depending on the size of the cut (think 4 pound roast or 8 pound pork shoulder). Other ways to thaw those animal proteins are to thaw in water and in the microwave. If done this way, it should be cooked immediately. More details on safe defrosting can be found here.
2. Before you put your protein into the refrigerator, put your frozen chicken or other protein INSIDE a container! Do not just put the pack on a shelf. Do not assume that your supermarket or butcher has fully sealed it or that contaminated hands/gloves/surfaces never touched it before it made its way to your home.
3. And whatever you do, do not put the chicken directly above produce.

This is what I did

So, I did a great job with number 1. I planned ahead, moved my chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator the day before I intended to use it. It was defrosting quite nicely. Then I ended up keeping it in the fridge another night as my dinner plans changed on short notice.

And then it went downhill…

When I finally went to use the chicken, I noticed some pink juice on the corner of the package. I looked closer and saw pink juice on the shelf. Ah, not good! I was shocked. This hadn’t happened before. Especially with the packaged chicken from Costco. Then I looked even closer and saw pink juice running down the side of the fridge. Yikes! How could this happen??? What was I thinking?!?!?

My chicken defrosted so nicely without its container to collect the juice. It also happened to be right above my produce drawer. I was relieved when it appeared the pink juice had safely steered clear of actually bathing the produce. The engineer in me complemented the design of the refrigerator. I even told my husband how I was impressed that the built-in design saved us from a much worse situation!

Later when I went to pull the scallions out of the drawer, my heart sank. I noticed they felt oddly sticky. ICK! Sigh 🙁 How could I have missed this? The refrigerator design wasn’t as perfect as I had thought. The design couldn’t overcome blatant disregard for defrosting rules.

All the produce went straight into the garbage. The drawer had to be disinfected along with the shelf and wall of the fridge.

In Closing

So there we have it, my big chicken fail. Luckily, the chicken cooked up deliciously – cacciatore style. But I hope you’ll heed my advice and the advice of the food safety experts… Thaw your proteins in the refrigerator overnight, in a spill-proof container, and away from fresh produce. . Trust me, the time you don’t do this, you’ll be kicking yourself!

While there are worse things in life than having to chuck a bunch of salad greens, broccoli, scallions, and parsley, defrosting chicken is just one of those things your best off just following the rules for.

Happy eating!

P.S. This is how I defrost everything now…