One of the most frustrating things in life is coming home after a long day at work and realizing that you never took out the frozen chicken for dinner.
What now? You don’t have a back-up plan, you can’t wait for it to thaw, and you certainly don’t want to microwave it; what other options do you have?! Well, you could try frying it like the store-bought versions, but is that even possible?
Can you fry frozen chicken? Though it is not recommended, you can fry frozen chicken. You will have to increase the cooking time by at least 50% to defrost your chicken fully and cook it evenly. It is also vitally important to check the internal temperature of your chicken in several places to make sure it is fully cooked.
If you’re going to fry frozen chicken, it’s important to follow some key safety guidelines.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to check if it has been fully cooked in more than one spot, checking the internal temperature and color of the chicken in several places of each piece.
Today, we will dive deep into the world of frozen chicken and how to cook it. We will also look at what happens if you cook frozen meat, how to do it correctly, and what different cooking times and methods work best for frozen chicken.
The freezer is one of the best inventions since the wheel and we won’t lie; we literally depend on ours!
Freezing foods is extremely convenient (especially when you buy in bulk). It helps you free up space in the refrigerator for those foods that cannot freeze, such as cucumber or already defrosted leftovers.
It helps you store prepped food for your weekly meal planning, and it always has a last-minute dinner idea in there somewhere.
But the most frustrating part of freezers is forgetting to defrost or thaw ingredients before having to cook them – most of the time you only realize this just as you’re about to start making the food.
When that realization hits us, we go through a whole range of emotions in mere seconds: shock, anger, frustration, sadness, and panic – what other dinner options do you have? And what if you’re expecting guests?
Well, contrary to popular belief, you can cook frozen chicken. The tricky part is choosing the correct method to do so for the specific piece of chicken, and following very strict safety guidelines.
The best way to find a cooking method for your specific piece of frozen chicken is to experiment. Size has a massive impact on how the frozen piece cooks, and so does its shape.
You also have to consider what is available to you, and how much time you have left. No one’s kitchen is the same, so be sure to make notes every time you cook chicken from frozen to improve your method next time you try it.
What Happens If You Fry Frozen Meat?
Before discussing why and how you can cook frozen chicken, let’s first see why so many people advise against it.
When meat thaws or defrosts, the process does take a couple of hours.
During this time, the ice crystals (water molecules inside the meat) slowly melt and water seeps out of the flesh – this is the water you see in the plate or bowl after something has defrosted.
During this defrosting period, which again, takes place over a number of hours, some of those water molecules evaporate, leaving a lot less moisture.
The more moisture present, the less evenly the chicken will cook, as it affects the temperature. Excess moisture is also an issue when attempting to marinate frozen chicken, which is also possible, but not recommended.
When you fry frozen meat (be it pan-frying or deep-frying), all those ice crystals instantly melt at the same time, causing excess water to be released. This immediately creates an uneven surface temperature.
This leaves a higher possibility of bacteria in uncooked parts multiplying and causing serious food poisoning, campylobacteriosis, and salmonella. This is why it was always recommended to defrost meat first before cooking it.
Not only that, but the water released reacts with the very hot oil and causes potentially hazardous oil splatter.
What is even worse is that when you are baking chicken with other ingredients such as spices, that excess water has the potential to dilute the flavor considerably.
If you don’t know how to fry frozen chicken safely, you could end up with oil burns and salmonella, and have nothing but a terribly bland and chewy plate of chicken to show for it.
However, true to form, we have found a way to cheat the system and safely cook frozen chicken! The method you choose depends on a lot of factors, all of which we will cover.
The general rule of thumb is that your frozen chicken should cook at least 50% longer than the regular cooking time for thawed chicken. This method is approved by the USDA.
We, however, recommend cooking it roughly twice as long. For example, if your raw (unfrozen) chicken wings should cook for 5-8 minutes, your frozen chicken wings should cook for around 10-16 minutes.
Always be safer now than sorry later! Keep this rule in mind as we discuss the rest of the factors in the article.
Choosing a Cooking Method
As we’ve mentioned by now, you can definitely cook frozen chicken; it is merely a matter of choosing the best method for your specific piece and cooking it for an extended amount of time.
The trick is choosing a method that is most effective for not only cooking your food all the way through but also for creating that golden, crispy outside texture without overcooking your chicken.
Frozen chicken comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms, all of which will determine how you are going to cook them from frozen.
There are a ton of different cuts of chicken that can be cooked, from thighs to breasts, to drumsticks, and even a whole chicken.
The first thing to consider when choosing a method is to think about the size of the piece you are frying.
You won’t be able to fit a whole chicken in a deep fryer (unless it is a really small chicken), but you will easily be able to fit a whole chicken into a roasting pan.
Also, think about the original method used to cook the piece of chicken. That method would work best to cook its frozen counterpart as well.
Whole chickens are almost always cooked in an oven. Chicken nuggets are almost always deep-fried. Chicken fillets are often pan-fried, and so on, and so on.
Different chicken cuts will naturally be different in size, but even those cuts themselves aren’t always the same size.
The larger the piece of chicken (regardless of the cut), the longer it will take to cook. The same applies to frozen pieces.
Use the general cooking times guideline, but use your intuition as well if you can clearly see that the piece is larger.
Can You Deep Fry Frozen Chicken?
Yes, you can definitely deep fry frozen chicken if you follow the right method to keep yourself safe.
Choose pieces and cuts that you would normally deep fry. These include chicken nuggets, chicken wings, crumbed chicken pieces, etc.
If you are choosing deep-frying as the cooking method, the only difference between the pieces will be the cooking times.
The smaller pieces, such as chicken wings and drumsticks, will have a much shorter cooking time compared to a whole chicken breast.
Similarly, partially cooked chicken pieces such as nuggets and patties will cook quicker (even when frozen) compared to their raw counterparts.
We wouldn’t recommend frying a whole chicken, as it will take too long and result in overcooked chicken. And, your deep fryer will probably not be big enough (unless you have a really small chicken).
Instead, opt for baking a whole chicken like you would when it’s raw. The method is easy. Simply add the chicken to the fryer and wait for it to be fully cooked, extending the time accordingly.
As we’ve mentioned previously, you will need to check the internal temperature of your chicken in several places to make sure it is fully cooked through.
Can You Cook Frozen Chicken in a Frying Pan?
You can definitely cook frozen chicken in a frying pan. However, the options are more limited. Choose pieces that are usually cooked in a frying pan, which include chicken fillets or breasts, and sometimes chicken thighs.
Cooking frozen chicken in a frying pan is a bit more challenging, as the heat only comes from one side, meaning the piece only cooks one side at a time.
If you don’t monitor it closely, you could end up with unevenly cooked chicken, which could lead to food poisoning.
A great tip to keep in mind when cooking frozen chicken in a frying pan is to constantly remove the excess water that is released.
You can do this by either absorbing the water with a paper towel (kitchen towel) or by simply pouring it out of the pan.
This will even out the temperature of the pan and meat and will create a safer cooking space by separating the oil and water.
Can You Cook Frozen Chicken in an Oven?
After deep-frying, we would recommend cooking chicken in an oven before cooking it in a pan. The pan has one-sided heat, whereas a fryer and an oven have heat from all sides.
The oven also helps evaporate the excess moisture faster and has an even and consistent cooking temperature. The oven can handle any piece of chicken regardless of its coating, shape, or size.
We would recommend placing the frozen chicken pieces on a wire rack so the moisture can drip to the bottom without touching the chicken. This way, any coating is semi-preserved, as it won’t get soggy from sitting in water.
The flavor of any spices and seasonings will also be less diluted.
Not only can you cook frozen chicken in the oven, but you can also reheat frozen fried chicken using a combination of the oven and, surprisingly, a microwave as well.
How to Know If the Frozen Chicken Has Been Fully Cooked
The ways to know whether or not your frozen chicken has been fully cooked are the same ways to tell whether your fresh chicken is fully cooked.
- Use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of fully cooked chicken should be around 165°F (74°C). With frozen chicken specifically, take the temperature in the thickest part, but also in another part of the chicken (to ensure it is evenly cooked everywhere).
- Check the color of the meat. Chicken should be white (a fleshy cream color) if it has been fully cooked. Any pink, gelatinous, or see-through parts mean that it isn’t cooked. This sign goes hand in hand with the color of the juices.
- Poke the chicken to see the color of the juices. Red or pink juices mean that the meat hasn’t been fully cooked. Cooked chicken has clear juices.
- Follow cooking times. Do not cheat the times by increasing temperatures and decreasing cooking times. A higher temperature won’t cook the item quicker, only cook the outside more. With chicken specifically, there are a lot of risks involved when it comes to preserving the texture of the outside while cooking the middle thoroughly.
How Long Does It Take to Deep Fry Frozen Chicken?
Just to recap, any piece of frozen chicken, regardless of the method used, should be cooked at least 50% longer than originally stated, preferably twice as long.
The times below are only average estimates and your chicken piece could take longer.
Cooking Times for Deep Frying Frozen Chicken at 350°F (180°C)
|Chicken Cut||Raw Chicken||Frozen Chicken|
|Wings||10 minutes||15-20 minutes|
|Nuggets||5 minutes||8-10 minutes|
|Strips||5 minutes||8-10 minutes|
|Breasts||14 minutes||21-28 minutes|
|Drumsticks||14 minutes||21-28 minutes|
|Thighs||14 minutes||21-28 minutes|
How to Deep-Fry Frozen Chicken
- Heat the oil to 350°F (180°C).
- Remove the frozen chicken from the freezer and place it in the oil.
- Fry the chicken for the appropriate amount of time, or until it is fully cooked.
- Remove the chicken from the fryer and place it on a wire rack to drain the excess oil.
Tips & Tricks
- Do not overfill your fryer. Especially because you are working with frozen chicken, the ice-cold temperatures will lower the temperature of the oil considerably, which directly affects the cooking time. Do not add too much-frozen chicken and rather work in smaller batches to prevent undercooking anything.
- The lower the temperature, the longer the cooking time. Keep this in mind when following a specific recipe that requires a lower temperature.
Once you’ve made and enjoyed your fried chicken, feel free to take a look at our guide for how to store fried chicken to make sure that your leftovers stay fresh as long as possible.
How Long Does It Take to Bake Frozen Chicken?
Baking frozen chicken works exactly the same way deep-frying does; you have to cook it much longer to ensure it cooks evenly.
Baking chicken is a fantastic method as the heat is evenly distributed, and you can bake it in a way that minimal moisture comes into contact with the chicken itself.
Cooking Times for Baking Frozen Chicken at 350°F (180°C)
|Chicken Piece||Raw Chicken||Frozen Chicken|
|Wings||20-30 minutes||30-40 minutes|
|Nuggets||15-20 minutes||22-40 minutes|
|Strips||15-20 minutes||22-40 minutes|
|Breasts||30-40 minutes||45 min–1h 20 minutes|
|Drumsticks||30-40 minutes||45 min–1h 20 minutes|
|Thighs||40-50 minutes||1 h–1h 40 minutes|
|Whole chicken||40-60 minutes||1h 20 minutes–2 hours|
How to Bake Frozen Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper or parchment paper.
- Place a wire rack inside the roasting tray, and place the chicken on top.
- Bake for the appropriate amount of time before removing the chicken from the oven.
Tips & Tricks
- Use the thermo-fan setting. If you have this setting (helps distribute heat and air evenly), use it. It will help cook the chicken from all sides, ensuring it cooked evenly.
- Check internal temperatures. When using this method, you should definitely check the chicken to ensure it is fully cooked. Ovens sometimes have hot or cold spots which then creates uneven cooking.