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How To Cook Chicken In The Microwave

Published by: Maria Kelley • Updated: February 17, 2024 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

You can poach, shred, dice, and cook chicken breasts, thighs, and legs in a microwave and get moist, delicious results each time. Depending on the size and number of cuts and the method used, the cooking time in the high setting can take 6 to 20 minutes.

The part that most turn me off about cooking is just how long the entire process is, especially as a meat eater and an average cook on my best days. From prepping the meat to cooking it to cleaning up, I spend no less than two hours in the kitchen for the whole process.

This means that I’m mostly cooking basic food for necessary intake instead of whipping up delicacies that I’d much rather eat but don’t have the time to invest in.

Until a dear friend introduced me to the true potential of the microwave.

Cooking Chicken In The Microwave

A machine I’d written off as a pure reheating device could be used to effortlessly cook up anything from eggs to cake to chicken, and in a fraction of the time that a traditional stove or oven would take! To think I’d owned a microwave for at least five years before this information came my way.

And when you’re cooking with versatile protein like chicken, it really couldn’t get any easier. Shredded, cubed, poached, in a casserole, tandoori, tossed into a salad or a burrito or a tacothere’s so much you can do with chicken and all of it just as well in the microwave as on the stove or oven.

I’ve found that among all the food I attempted to cook in the microwave, the chicken was, by far, the most straightforward and tastiest, and very little can go wrong.

So, for all those looking to cut down kitchen time and still have delicious results, here’s my handy guide to cooking some lip-smacking chicken in your microwave.

Chicken is one of those proteins that can be easily adapted to any recipe, ingredients, cuisine, and flavour.

Before we start, I’d like to tell you what cuts and parts I usually use. On most days, I cook pre-cut frozen pieces that I pick up from the grocer. These are usually the thighs or breasts. I also cook the legs/drumsticks in the oven on some adventurous days.

The best part about using a microwave is that I can cook as much or as little as I need for myself. Leftovers are so easy to store in the fridge, ready for the next meal.

Additionally, the results are delicious, tender, and moist every time I use the microwave to cook chicken.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the cooking itself.

How To Cook Chicken Breasts In The Microwave

Chicken breasts are among the easiest and tastiest parts of the chicken to cook. I poach the meat first so that I can easily shred it or dice it.

Poaching Chicken Breasts In The Microwave

Poaching refers to cooking any food, typically meat, in liquid. Before getting to the cooking, it’s essential to prep the chicken right. Since breast meat is thick, preparing it well will help it cook evenly.

juicy chicken and tomato dish cooked in the microwave

I use no more than four breast cuts for any recipe involving the microwave and chicken breasts. Anything more, I turn to my trusty crockpot or pressure cooker. Otherwise, I’ll have to do multiple batches.

What You’ll Need
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces
  • Salt and pepper or any seasoning you wish to use
  • Stock, water, or any poaching liquid you want to use (citrus juice, wine, etc.)
  • A meat tenderizer
  • Wax paper
  • Cling wrap or wax paper to cover the chicken in the microwave.
  • A microwave pan to lay out your chicken in (remember that you’ll be adding liquid to the container); the chicken should be laid out in a single layer and have some space around each of them
Prepping The Chicken Breasts

Pound the chicken breasts to make them evenly thick. Lay out the meat on a hard surface, covering it with wax paper. Using a meat tenderizer, pound the pieces until all of them are evenly sized.

Chicken Breasts Pounded For Even Cooking

Once done, lay out the breasts in a dish or tray. A 9×9 inches casserole dish works perfectly for me when cooking two to four pieces.

Ensure the widest/thickest part of the chicken faces the edges of the dish. Microwaves start cooking from the outside and work their way in, and putting the thin pieces outside will cause them to overcook and dry up, while the thicker parts don’t cook thoroughly through.

The Recipe
  1. Once the chicken breasts are laid out, season them with salt and pepper; you could also use spicing like oregano and chilli flakes.
  2. Add in the stock or water. You want the chicken breasts to be submerged by one-third only.
  3. Next, cover the dish with plastic wrap or wax paper. We’re doing this to create a steam bath for the chicken in the microwave. I usually fold back one edge of the wrap by a quarter inch so that the steam can vent if needed. Make sure it’s no larger, as this could cause a lot of liquid to evaporate, drying out the chicken.
  4. Put the covered dish into your microwave and turn on the high settings (800 watts). Usually, each chicken breast takes about 4-5 minutes to cook, so if you’re using four, that’s around 16-20 minutes of cooking time. However, this can vary depending on the meat’s thickness and size.
  5. I use a food thermometer to check whether my chicken is done instead of cutting it, as this causes the juices to flow out from the meat, leaving me with dry, stringy chicken.

    If the internal temperature of the meat is around 73-74℃, I know that my meat is cooked. Ideally, I would pull out the meat when the internal temperature is five degrees lower since the meat will continue to cook even after it’s been pulled out of the microwave.
  6. Once the desired temperature is hit, your chicken is cooked! However, let it rest for at least five minutes before you slice, shred, or dice it.
  7. If your chicken isn’t cooked, continue to cook it in one-minute bursts until it’s done.

Alternate Poaching Methods

  • Instead of submerging the breasts in liquid, drizzle two tablespoons of broth or stock over the chicken. Cover with wrap (don’t forget the vent for steam) and cook each side for 3-4 minutes (so you’re cooking for a total of 6-8 minutes and turning the chicken at the 4-minute mark).

    Once cooked, let the meat rest for a few minutes before serving.
  • This is a more elaborate method. Mix 60 millilitres of orange juice and a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper—microwave for two minutes on high. Remove and spoon this over four skinless, boneless chicken breasts in a baking dish.

    Cover the dish (again, vent!) and microwave for 12 minutes on high. Let the chicken rest before serving.

Making Shredded And Diced Chicken

You can shred your poached chicken for use in a ton of other recipes. Remove the wrap after you’ve let the cooked meat sit for five minutes. Be careful, as the steam will gush out, and you don’t want to get burnt.

Once the steam’s escaped, transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Using a fork, shred the chicken. If you want it diced, use a knife to cut it into the size you want.

How To Cook Chicken Legs And Thighs In The Microwave

The great news is that chicken legs and thighs follow exactly the same procedure as cooking chicken breasts, minus the pounding for the drumsticks! Of course, this is if you want to poach them, in which case, you can use the following settings:

  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs: Cook in the high setting for 4-5 minutes if you’re using 2 cuts, and increase the cooking time for more pieces.
  • Chicken Drumsticks: Cook in the high setting for 12-15 minutes. This works for eight drumsticks. You can also batter the drumsticks, rub in seasoning, or cook them in a sauce instead of poaching them in plain liquid, but monitor the cooking time accordingly.

If you’re using drumsticks with the skin on, ensure that you’re creating incisions in all the drumsticks, with a sharp knife or fork, in a couple of spots. This will prevent the meat from potentially exploding in the microwave.

If you want to create something more elaborate, like a tandoori grill, the recipe will be different and more elaborate.

Should You Thaw Frozen Chicken Before Cooking?

I highly suggest thawing frozen meat before cooking it in the microwave. I defrost my chicken before cooking it by laying it on a plate and popping it into the microwave. I do this by using the defrost setting and defrosting in one-minute bursts.

Once the chicken has thoroughly defrosted, you can follow the cooking methods listed above.

How To Cook Chicken In The Microwave: The Bottom Line

I’ve listed the most common ways to cook chicken in the microwave, but depending on the recipe, the process can be more detailed or simpler. Experimentation is the best teacher; don’t be afraid to try new ways and processes, as you may find something that works better for you.

Just ensure that whatever method you use, the meat is thoroughly cooked before you eat it and that you’re taking all the required safety precautions necessary while using a microwave. Good luck!

Maria Kelley