Definitely Don’t…
1. …thaw meat on your kitchen counter. Bacteria thrive at room temperature.
2. …rinse chicken under running water. This can splash bacteria around your kitchen, leading to cross contamination.

These are bacteria that can, at best, make you sick, and at worst, kill you. Proper thawing practices and cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit will considerably reduce your risks.

There are three safe ways to thaw chicken, according to the USDA, and one method that skips thawing altogether.

Use the Microwave
This is the fastest method, but remember: Chicken must be cooked immediately after you thaw it using a microwave. That’s because microwaves heat poultry to a temperature between 40 and 140 degrees, which bacteria thrive in. Only cooking the chicken to proper temperatures will kill the potentially dangerous bacteria.

Use Cold Water
This should take two to three hours. Place the chicken in a leak-proof plastic bag, which will stop the water from damaging the meat tissue as well as any bacteria from infecting the food. Fill a large bowl or your kitchen sink with cold water, and submerge the chicken bag. Change out the water every 30 minutes.

Use a Refrigerator
This method requires the most preparation, but it’s the most highly recommended. Chicken typically takes a full day to thaw, so plan your meals in advance. Once thawed, the poultry can remain in the refrigerator for a day or two before cooking.