Defrosting a chicken in the refrigerator is the best way to keep your family safe from salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. Microorganisms multiply rapidly at temperatures above 40 degrees F, so keeping chicken in the fridge while it defrosts prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria. If chicken's on your dinner menu, save time by sticking it in the fridge the day before. By dinnertime the next day, it'll be ready to cook.
Plan ahead. Small cuts of chicken will thaw fully in a day, but whole chickens require 24 hours or longer. However, you don't want to leave thawed chicken in the fridge for more than a couple of days.
Place frozen chicken in a plastic bag to prevent leaking and put it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
Cook your chicken 12 to 36 hours after you put it in the fridge. Don't worry if it's still a little frozen; as long as you're cooking on the stove or in the oven, it's not dangerous to cook frozen chicken. However, frozen or partially frozen chicken takes longer to cook.