If you are wondering whether you can cook chicken from frozen, or the best way to thaw chicken quickly, the answer depends on a few factors. Check out our guide on cooking frozen chicken for all the details.
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Have you ever forgotten to thaw your frozen chicken the night before you need to use it? I have, and following a disastrous attempt to defrost it at speed in the microwave, I decided to do some research to find out if you can cook chicken from frozen.
So can you cook chicken from frozen?
The quick answer to this question is “it depends”. It is ok to cook chicken from frozen for some cooking methods, but for others, it is not recommended and can be downright dangerous. Read on to find out which methods are safe to cook chicken from frozen.
When cooking chicken it is important for the temperature of the meat to reach 165°F/ 74°C before consumption.
However, it is slightly more complicated than that because the important point is that the chicken should not sit outside the ‘safe temperature’ range (either below 40°F/ 5°C, or 165°F/74°C or above) for long, as bacterial growth can occur making the chicken unsafe to eat.
This is why frozen chicken should never be left to thaw on the countertop – as soon as it warms up above 40°F/5°C bacterial growth will speed up, and if you leave it at room temperature until the center is thawed before you cook it then the outside will have been above this safe temperature for too long (maybe hours depending on the size of the chicken you are thawing), and levels of harmful bacteria will make it unsafe to eat. See below for the best methods to defrost chicken.
However you choose to cook your frozen chicken, it is extremely important to measure the internal temperature in several places to ensure it is 165°F/74°C or above all the way through before you consume it.
If you’ve never used a meat thermometer before, check out my guide: How to use a meat thermometer.
Can you cook chicken from frozen in the oven?
Yes, you can roast or bake chicken in the oven from frozen. However, the cooking time will be around one and a half times as long as for unfrozen chicken. For example, if a recipe for cooking fresh chicken takes one hour to cook, then using frozen chicken for the recipe would take 1½ hours.
After cooking frozen chicken in the oven, always check the temperature of the center of chicken in several places using a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached the safe temperature of 165°F/74°C or above before consuming.
Can you cook chicken from frozen in the air fryer?
Yes, you can cook frozen chicken in the air fryer. However, the cooking time will be longer. It should take around one and a half times as long to air fry frozen chicken vs unfrozen chicken. For example, if a recipe for air frying fresh chicken takes twenty minutes to cook, then using frozen chicken for the recipe would take thirty minutes.
After cooking frozen chicken in the air fryer, always check the internal temperature of the center of the chicken in several places to ensure it has reached 165°F/74°C or above all the way through before you consume it.
Can you cook frozen chicken in a pressure cooker?
Yes, you can cook frozen chicken in a pressure cooker, or Instant Pot. However, you will need to increase the cooking time by around one-third. So if the pressure cook time was 15 minutes, then pressure cook for 20 minutes if the chicken is frozen.
The only problem with cooking frozen chicken in a pressure cooker is that you cannot measure the internal temperature during cooking as you can if roasting it in the oven. However, you can check it when the cooking time is up and pressure cook for an additional few minutes if it hasn’t reached the safe temperature of 165°F/74°C or above in the center (remember to test it in several places to ensure if is this temperature all the way through).
Can you cook chicken from frozen in the slow cooker?
No, despite what you might read elsewhere on the Internet, you should not cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker. Because the cooking time is long and slow, the chicken thaws out during the first part of the cooking time, but doesn’t reach the safe temperature (165°F/74°C) for a few hours, potentially leading to harmful levels of bacterial growth (and foodborne illness).
See below for some safe ways to thaw frozen chicken, or try cooking it in an electric pressure cooker instead (on pressure cook, not slow cook mode).
Can you cook frozen chicken breast?
You can cook chicken breast from frozen using many cooking methods. Baking or roasting in the oven, air frying, shallow frying, or pressure cooking are all ok. However, cooking frozen chicken breast in a slow cooker is not recommended, for the reasons outlined above.
When cooking chicken breast from frozen, the cooking time is likely to be around one and a half times longer than the cooking time for fresh chicken breast.
Also, it is vitally important that you test the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer to ensure they have reached the safe temperature of 165°F/74°C all the way through before you eat them (test in several places as frozen chicken may cook unevenly).
How do you thaw frozen chicken?
There are a few methods that can be used for thawing frozen chicken safely. Chicken should never be thawed out on the kitchen counter because the outside of the meat will reach a temperature above 40°F/ 4°C while the inside is still frozen. The part of the chicken that reaches a temperature above 40°F/ 4°C would be susceptible to bacterial growth while the center is still thawing. Use one of the safe thawing methods described below.
The easiest way to thaw frozen chicken safely is to place it in the refrigerator until it has defrosted. Allow the chicken to sit in the refrigerator covered, in a large bowl, until it’s fully thawed. The entire process should take 24 hours for every five pounds of meat.
However, even small portions of frozen food such as a single chicken breast can take a full day to thaw in the refrigerator.
Once the chicken has thawed completely, it should be cooked within 1-2 days.
This requires planning, you need to remember to remove the chicken from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator a day or more before you want to cook it. Luckily there are some ways to defrost frozen chicken more quickly if you need to.
How do you thaw frozen chicken quickly?
There are two ways to thaw or defrost frozen chicken quickly. Once the chicken is thawed using either of these methods you will need to cook it immediately, so only defrost it when you are almost ready to cook.
1. Use cold water to thaw chicken
Probably the easiest way to thaw frozen chicken quickly is to submerge it in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until it is fully thawed. Only use this method if the chicken is sealed in a leak-proof pack to prevent the water from touching the meat while it is defrosting.
Do not be tempted to use warm water, as this will raise the temperature above the safe range for too long before the center thaws.
2. Defrost chicken in the microwave
The other safe way to defrost chicken quickly is to use the defrost or thaw setting on your microwave:
- Place frozen chicken in a microwave-safe container
- Press the defrost button on your microwave
- Set the weight of the chicken you want to defrost
- Hit Start
- When the time is up check whether it is fully thawed, and add a few more minutes of defrosting time if required
If your microwave doesn’t have a defrost mode, microwave it at 20-30% power level for around 8-10 minutes per pound, adding more time if needed until it is defrosted.
So hopefully that gives you the info you need on how to cook chicken from frozen, and some ways to thaw chicken if you need to for your recipe.
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