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Can You Grill Frozen Chicken?

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Many families opt for chicken as a regular weekday meal, but it is all too easy to forget to lift the chicken from the freezer to defrost! Whether you need a few extra pieces of chicken for unexpected guests or need a last-minute dinner option, it can be tempting to put frozen chicken on the grill.

But is it OK to grill frozen chicken? Yes, it is safe to cook frozen chicken on the grill, but you will need to modify your cooking technique and extend the cooking time to ensure it is cooked safely. It is not advisable to cook large pieces of chicken on the grill, so stick to smaller portions such as wings or drumsticks.

In a panic about whether you can grill frozen chicken? Don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to know about the best way to cook frozen chicken on the grill right here!

Can You Really Grill Frozen Chicken?

Chicken dinner.

Chicken is a highly versatile cooking ingredient and many of us love the delicious flavor and texture of chicken cooked on the grill.

Succulent flavorful white meat with those characteristic charred lines of caramelized flavor from the grill — sublime!

We’ve had it drummed into us for years that meat and poultry should be thawed before cooking, so it is very frustrating when you realize you’ve forgotten to get the chicken out of the freezer for dinner.

But the good news is that dinner is not ruined, as you can safely cook chicken on the grill from frozen!

You will need to take a bit more care and attention than cooking fresh chicken, and the cooking times will need to be adapted to make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly.

But, with a few simple changes, you can grill frozen chicken and create a delicious family meal in no time at all!

What Is The Best Way To Grill Frozen Chicken?

Meat and vegetables char-grilled

We need to start with a word of caution here – cooking chicken from frozen is not the safest method to use, and may not give the best results either. But, in a pinch, you can cook frozen chicken on the grill with good results!

Chicken is one of the riskiest forms of food to cook, as it carries a high risk of food poisoning.

Eating chicken that is only slightly undercooked will put you and your family in danger of contracting salmonellosis or other highly unpleasant gastrointestinal problems.

Another issue associated with cooking frozen chicken on the grill is that you will need to extend the cooking time, which means the meat is more susceptible to moisture loss.

Without taking the appropriate precautions, frozen chicken cooked on the grill can turn out dry, rubbery, and chewy.

The aim when cooking frozen chicken on the grill is to thaw the meat at the start of the cooking process, then keep it on the heat until the meat is cooked through thoroughly. 

This is normally quicker than waiting for your frozen chicken to defrost, so it is a handy method if you are in a hurry. However, you will need to extend the cooking time for your meal, normally by around 50%.

So, if you normally grill chicken thighs for around 20 minutes, you will need to increase this to at least 30 minutes if cooking the meat from frozen.

There is some flexibility in this time extension, as it depends on the quantity and thickness of the chicken you are using, and how quickly it defrosts in the pan.

If you’ve got a little pack of frozen diced chicken, it may only take 10-15 minutes to thaw out using this method. A larger pack of oyster-cut chicken legs can take two or three times longer.

As a rule of thumb, the thinner the chicken is cut, the safer it is to grill from frozen. This is because the heat will penetrate through to the center of the meat at a much faster rate. 

When cooking thicker pieces of meat, the outside of the chicken can look cooked while the inside is barely defrosted and still raw.

The aim is to defrost the chicken as quickly as possible on the grill, to prevent the risk of bacterial contamination.

If you were to try to thaw and cook a large whole chicken on the grill, it will take a very long time for heat to penetrate through to the center. This greatly increases the risk of bacteria multiplying in the center of the meat as it gradually thaws.

For this reason, it is only advisable to cook smaller pieces of chicken on the grill, such as thighs, wings, and drumsticks.

You may get away with a smaller spatchcock chicken, but you’d need to pay careful attention to the cooking process.

If you’re at all unsure whether the chicken is cooked, we would advise extending the cooking time by a few more minutes.

Eating partially cooked chicken is not advisable, so on this occasion, you should definitely err on the side of caution!

Can You Grill Frozen Chicken Breast?

Meat prepared in barbecue smoker for competition.

Frozen chicken breasts can be cooked successfully on the grill, with just a few minor tweaks to the cooking process.

The aim here is to defrost the meat quickly without it drying out, and then cook it as normal. The high heat of a grill can make this tricky, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve!

The first thing to remember is not to be tempted to reduce the heat while the chicken breasts thaw out. This will prolong the time it takes for the meat to defrost, and increase the risk of bacterial contamination.

So, stick to the same temperature as your recipe suggests when using thawed chicken breasts.

The second factor we need to consider is how to stop the chicken breast from drying out. You will need to extend the cooking time by around 50%, which can lead to dry, rubbery chicken.

There are two methods you can use to help retain moisture in your chicken breasts.

The first is to brush them regularly with cooking oil, or an oil-based marinade. This will seal the outside of the meat and help prevent moisture from evaporating.

The second method is a bit more fiddly but will give you better results. Each chicken breast should be brushed with marinade or oil, and then wrapped in aluminum cooking foil. 

Step By Step Guide To Grilling Frozen Chicken Breast

Roast chicken breast isolated on white.

This method will help you get your frozen chicken breasts sizzling away in no time at all!

It does require a little bit of care and attention, but it is much faster than waiting for your chicken breasts to thaw out.

  1. Preheat the grill to 350°F.
  2. Remove the chicken breasts from the freezer and take them out of their packaging. Separate the chicken breasts – you may need to let them defrost for a minute or two to do this.
  3. Make up a batch of your favorite oil-based marinade for chicken. If you’re stuck for inspiration, then a mix of dried herbs, chili flakes, and canola oil works well!
  4. Take a sheet of aluminum foil for each chicken breast, and brush a generous amount of the marinade into the center.
  5. Place each chicken breast onto the foil, and brush the top of the chicken with the marinade. Fold the foil up over the top of the chicken to form a parcel.
  6. Place the chicken parcels on the heat.
  7. Cook the frozen chicken breasts for 20 minutes, then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. If it has reached 165°F, the chicken breasts are cooked.
  8. Rest the chicken breasts in their foil parcels for a few minutes before serving.

Optional Extra – If you’re a big fan of charred grill lines on your chicken, follow this method then sear the cooked breasts on a hot grill for a minute or two on each side!

Is It Better To Thaw Chicken Before Cooking?

While it is possible to turn frozen chicken into a delicious family dinner, is this the best option you have available?

For safety reasons, it is always better to thaw chicken before you cook it. This is especially the case with whole chickens or larger pieces of chicken, which should never be cooked on the grill.

You will always get better results when cooking thawed chicken vs frozen chicken, as the meat is less likely to dry out and become rubbery.

Luckily, there are some quick and easy ways to defrost frozen chicken in a hurry!

Thawing Frozen Chicken In The Microwave

This is the easiest method if you are in a hurry and need to defrost chicken ready to cook for dinner straightaway.

When defrosting chicken in the microwave, it can start to cook as soon as it is thawed — this means you need to add it to a hot pan straight away, and it should not be stored to use later that day or the next day.

Place the frozen chicken on a microwave-safe plate, and cover it with a paper towel. Set the microwave to defrost (or 30% power setting) for 2 minutes per 1 pound of chicken.

If you’ve got a large pack of chicken pieces, pause the microwave halfway through the defrosting time and rearrange the pieces on the plate.

Microwaves defrost from the outside first, so this will help prevent the outer pieces from starting to cook whilst the middle is still frozen.

Thawing Frozen Chicken In A Water Bath

Take the frozen chicken and place it into a waterproof container. Put this in a larger bowl or pan, and add cool water to cover the outside of the container.

Never use warm or hot water, as this will thaw the outside too quickly and the inside will still be frozen solid!

Check the water every half hour or so — it will feel colder as the chicken begins to thaw. Refresh the water regularly until the meat is completely thawed.

This method is only suitable if you are going to cook the chicken within an hour of it fully defrosting.

Thawing Frozen Chicken In The Refrigerator

This is the easiest method for defrosting frozen chicken, but it does rely on you remembering to take it out of the freezer in good time!

Pop the frozen chicken on a plate, making sure it is covered. It will take up to 24 hours to defrost fully.

When using this method, you can keep the defrosted chicken in the fridge for up to 2 days. So if you don’t get around to cooking your chicken straight away, it’ll be fine to eat the next day.

Related Questions

Now we’ve got grilling your frozen chicken all sorted out, let’s take a look at some other poultry-related questions!

Can You Cook Ground Turkey From Frozen?

Cooking any type of meat from frozen is a risky business, but what about ground turkey? The good news is that yes, you can safely cook ground turkey from frozen!

However, it takes a bit more care and attention than cooking fresh ground turkey, and you will have to tweak your cooking times to make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly.

The plan is to thaw the ground turkey at the start of the cooking process in a splash of water, and then add the rest of the ingredients once the meat is fully defrosted.

You will need to extend the cooking time for your meal, normally by around 50%. The frozen turkey should be gently pulled apart as it defrosts in the pan.

One downside to this method is that it is very difficult to brown the turkey and get that great caramelized flavor. So, if browned meat is your aim, defrost the ground turkey first!

How Long Can Raw Chicken Sit Out?

Raw chicken should never be left to sit out at room temperature for more than two hours, and this reduces to one hour in warmer temperatures.

This is because bacteria can multiply quickly in warmer temperatures, especially if the meat is exposed to air.

So, after two hours raw chicken will no longer be safe to eat, even if it looks perfectly fine. This timeframe is long enough for bacteria to have multiplied to levels that will cause foodborne illness.

If you’re buying fresh raw chicken with your weekly groceries, make it the last thing you pop into your trolley, and plan to get it home and in the fridge as soon as possible.

How Long Can Raw Chicken Be Stored In The Freezer?

Storing raw chicken in the freezer means that it can be kept for a significantly longer time without being spoiled. In the freezer, chicken remains safe to eat indefinitely, although it will deteriorate in quality over time.

Smaller pieces of raw chicken such as diced chicken breast will retain their taste and texture for up to nine months in the freezer. Whole chickens stay good for up to one year when frozen.

Protect your raw chicken from freezer burn by tightly wrapping the chicken in plastic wrap, storage bags, aluminum foil, or airtight storage containers.

Remember to label frozen chicken with the date it was frozen or a use-by date, to ensure it gets used while still in peak condition.

How Long Does Cooked Chicken Keep For?

Freshly cooked chicken can be kept in an airtight container for up to four days in the refrigerator. This is considerably longer than raw chicken, so cooking poultry is an easy way to extend its shelf life.

If you are not going to consume cooked chicken within a day or two, it can also be stored in the freezer for up to four months.

Remember that cooked chicken can quickly deteriorate in taste and texture in the freezer, so package it carefully to protect against freezer burn.

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