How long does it take to defrost a whole chicken? Is there a faster way?
In the fridge it will take a day or 2 to defrost. Since water is a better heat conductor than air it will defrost in water much more quickly. Wrapped to be air tight you can defrost it in cold water and it'll take 2-3 hours. You want to make sure the water stays cold to minimize bacterial growth. I would put it in a large bowl, fill with cold water, then leave under a gently running tap set to cold. Moving water will defrost the bird faster than still water.
Of course, the fastest way is not to freeze it in the first place...
Well, if it is frozen, ya gotta work from there. Yeap. Put it in a bag. Seal it, and place the chicken in a bowl of cold water in the sink. We defrost countless numbers of things this way.
2 days in the reefer.
If you use the cold water method (i use it all the time!) you have to change the water frequently. They recommend every 30 minutes for poultry.
It's not the most eco-friendly way to do it, but the fastest way is to get in the car, go to the store, and buy another chicken. Running cold water over a chicken for two hours is also not very eco-friendly. Microwaving on the thaw cycle works decently for small pieces of meat or poultry, but for larger pieces, you end up with a mix of cooked and raw portions.
Let this be a learning experience: From now on, whenever you bring a chicken home, unwrap it, pull out the giblets, rinse everything, wrap the giblets and chicken separately and then freeze them. You can now roast or boil the chicken, whole, from the frozen state. If you don't want to do that, you can brine it and thaw it at the same time, but you're still looking at about a four-hour thaw.
All-Purpose Brine from Weber and Cook's Illustrated
1 quart cool water
1/2 cup Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1/2 cup sugar
Mix in a non-reactive container until dissolved. (Substitute 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Morton Kosher Salt or 1/4 cup table salt for Diamond Crystal.)
Make 1 quart of brine for each pound of chicken. Soak for 1 hour per pound, but not less than 30 minutes or longer than 8 hours.