Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

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Chicken is a staple dinner menu item in many households, as it is cost-effective and versatile. With chicken, you can do just about anything you want to, whether you add it to a casserole, marinate and bake it, or grill it with your favorite sides. 

We like to marinate chicken because you can change up the marinade and pick up some pretty awesome flavors in the process.

But how often do you forget to pull your chicken out of the freezer until the last minute and then have to scramble to figure out how to make it work?

Can you marinate frozen chicken? Yes, you can technically marinate frozen chicken, but it really doesn’t work well. It’s far better to thaw or defrost your chicken and then proceed with a marinade for the best results. 

In this guide, we will share with you just what happens if you do marinate frozen chicken.

Remember that while you can do it, it’s not the best option if you want tasty chicken in the end. It certainly won’t have the same results.

We have several related tips for better ways to get your chicken well on the way to a delicious dinner.  

Marinating Frozen Chicken

While it is certainly possible to marinate frozen chicken without ruining it, it is not advisable. The reasons primarily revolve around the quality and how the frozen meat will interact with your marinade. 

Ultimately, your marinade will become significantly less effective. The flavor you are expecting from your tried-and-true marinade will not live up to your expectations.

We’re going to dig a little bit deeper into this topic and give you some helpful tips so you can get your chicken marinated when you forget to defrost it. 

What to Expect if You Marinate Frozen Chicken

The purpose of a marinade is to soak into your meat and infuse it with a savory, juicy flavor. But if your chicken is frozen, the flavors cannot soak into the meat.

We know what you’re thinking now: can you just marinate it twice as long so it can thaw and marinate simultaneously?

This idea sounds good in theory, and it might work a little bit, but not very well.

You see, what happens when you do this is the ice and water that the chicken retained while it was frozen will mix with your marinade and water it down. This will drastically reduce the flavor that you rely on your marinade for. 

In addition, the marinade does more than just pump up the flavor of your chicken. That marinade soak is also an ideal way to make your chicken juicy and tender and prevent it from drying out without a lot of effort.

If you do decide to marinate frozen chicken, just be aware that your meat will not be nearly as tender or juicy as what a traditional marinade for raw chicken would provide. 

Ideally, you will get far better results if you thaw the chicken first.

If you do marinate your chicken while it is frozen, you should let the chicken thaw before cooking, and then you might want to add some additional marination before you try to cook it. 

Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken Overnight? 

If your heart’s been set on marinating frozen chicken, we do recommend an extended process. Allowing your frozen chicken to marinte overnight will give the chicken some additional time to thaw out and soak up all that flavor.

Just remember that as the chicken thaws, the frozen elements will water down your marinade and it won’t be as effective. 

In this case, however, you are probably just as well off to allow your chicken to thaw out overnight and then add your marinade in the morning.

Chances are, you are not going to make that chicken first thing in the morning, so your marinade will be far more effective using this method.

Is Marinating Frozen Chicken Unsafe? 

If you choose to marinate frozen chicken, the good news is that it is safe to do so.

We all get in a hurry and forget to take the chicken out of the freezer ahead of time. There are processes that can help to thaw your chicken out faster so you can marinade it more effectively.

If you’re short on time and just need to get a marinade on the chicken, you can do so frozen. While we don’t recommend it, there is nothing unsafe about doing so.

Before you cook the meat, you will want to let it thaw out. This allows the chicken to cook better and still be tender and juicy from the process. It also gives the marinade a better chance of working. 

If you use this process, make sure to toss out any excess marinade to avoid bacterial contamination as well.

Tips for Marinating Frozen Chicken

The very best way to add flavor to frozen chicken is to thaw it out first. Farther into this article, we will share with you some methods for thawing that might help you enjoy the best of both worlds. We will get to those shortly. 

Otherwise, your alternative is to marinate the frozen meat and ultimately take what you can get as far as flavor goes.

If you take this route, you should plan to add additional marinade and massage it into your chicken as it thaws.

If you are going to use a marinade on frozen meat, there are some mixtures that work better than others.

Using an acidic ingredient in your mixture makes a difference. This is because the acid helps tenderize the meat during the marinade process. 

If you are going to marinate frozen chicken, be sure to use an acidic ingredient and an oil of some sort to give the meat the best chance of being both flavorful and tender when you cook it. 

One more tip you can use here would be to prep your chicken with marinade before freezing it. We recommend cutting it into smaller pieces so that when you thaw it out, it doesn’t have as much meat to seep through. 

When you bring your chicken home from the store, go ahead and cut it up and prepare your marinade then. You can do this and then freeze your chicken until you are ready to use it.

This will let your marinade soak in while it freezes initially and it won’t be affected as much by the natural water when it’s time to thaw it out and cook it. 

The marinade and the chicken will thaw together before you cook it and it will be more effective overall. 

Thawing Chicken Before Marinating

There is more than one way to thaw chicken if you forget to pull it out early for the thawing process. 

Some of the options shared below will work much more quickly and will allow you to thaw the chicken and then marinate it for optimal results.

How to Thaw Chicken Using Hot Water

A good way to thaw chicken that is much quicker than letting it set out for several hours is to use hot water.

This is a common thawing process. It does still take some time, but it will take far less time than taking no action at all. 

  1. Grab a large pan or bucket. You can even use the sink if it is large enough.
  2. Run enough hot water to submerge your package of chicken. Let the hot water do its work. This process will take probably 30-60 minutes to really thaw your chicken, but it is a quicker way to get the job done. 

If you decide to use the hot water process, you will want to leave your chicken packaged or wrapped during the process. You also will need to change your water regularly during the process. 

As the water cools down, drain or dump the water and start over again with hot, fresh water. You also can stir your water every few minutes to avoid cold pockets forming in the water. 

The trick is to use really hot water and to keep the hot water replenished as much as you can. If you do it right, you might have thawed chicken in just 30 minutes of your time.

This is a bit work-intensive, as you have to monitor the water and replace it often, but it will be much better than trying to marinate frozen chicken in the end. 

How to Thaw Chicken in the Fridge

Another way to thaw chicken is in the fridge. This process does take longer than the previous method. This is the traditional thawing process and works really well if you have a bit more time on your hands.

Thawing chicken in the fridge takes planning, and of course, remembering to get the chicken out of the freezer to begin with. Thawing chicken in the fridge is best if you pull it out of the freezer the night before and place it in the fridge. 

When you place the chicken in the fridge, we recommend finding the warmest spot. This varies from fridge to fridge, but ultimately, you want to avoid placing it by the fan or near an ice-maker in the door.

If you remember to get the chicken out of the freezer, thawing it in the fridge overnight is the ideal process and it’s pretty simple.

Your chicken will be ready to marinate in the morning. 

How to Thaw Chicken in the Microwave

Depending on your chicken, you might be able to use the microwave to help with the thawing process. This process is best for smaller amounts of chicken and pieces that are not really thick.

We don’t recommend using this process for a whole chicken. 

Most microwaves have a defrost option and this is what you should use. Your intentions are not to cook the meat but rather help speed up the thawing process, so a microwave is a good option, particularly if you are very short on time. 

Set your microwave to defrost. We recommend using 2 minutes at a time for chicken. Every 2 minutes, check your chicken and turn it or move it so it doesn’t get dry. 

You will most likely notice that as this process works, your chicken will develop color around the edges that looks like it is cooking your chicken. Don’t worry, this is simply a reaction to the chicken heating up so quickly.

Use this defrost process until your chicken is mostly tender and thawed. You will probably be able to use your chicken in less than 10 minutes using this process. 

Once you’ve defrosted it in the microwave, you can move ahead with your process as normal and we’re sure your marinade will work wonders.

Related Questions:

We hope that you find this guide to marinating frozen chicken to be a valuable resource. While it’s not a simple answer, there are a lot of ways to get your chicken marinated so you can enjoy tender, juicy flavor. 

Check out our question and answer section below for some additional details that could be helpful for you. 

What is the Fastest Way to Thaw Chicken?

The quickest thawing method when you are in a pinch is the microwave. You can typically have thawed chicken within 5-10 minutes. Just pay attention so you know your chicken isn’t cooking in the microwave. 

How Long Can You Marinate Chicken? 

The USDA states that you can marinate chicken in the fridge for up to 48 hours. After that, it’s time to get it cooked so you don’t have to worry about it going bad.

This does not include thawing time in the fridge, but rather marinating time after chicken is thawed

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