Whether or not it’s safe to cook frozen chicken is a common concern. Whether it’s a roast or fried chicken, chicken marsala, or curry, everyone loves chicken. Not only does it taste really good, but it’s also lean with a lot of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. And as freezing chicken is a safe way to store it and reduce the growth of bacteria, chances are high you’ve got some frozen chicken in your freezer right now.
Although it is recommended by the USDA to first thaw frozen chicken, you can still cook it from its frozen state. Not only is it safe, but it also makes for a tasty and delicious meal. However, there are a few ways that cooking frozen chicken may be unsafe and cause food poisoning.
Since there are some exceptions to cooking frozen chicken, we’ll take an in-depth look at when it is safe and unsafe to boil or bake frozen chicken, the conditions and requirements for cooking, and important safety guidelines to follow when cooking chicken directly from the freezer.
When It Is Safe to Cook Frozen Chicken
When it comes to cooking frozen chicken, not all cooking methods are accepted, and not all types of chicken meat can be safely cooked from frozen. Here are the key things you should know about the safe cooking of frozen chicken.
Temperature Conditions and Cooking Time
According to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), you would need to safely cook frozen chicken for twice the normal time it takes to cook raw or thawed chicken. So, if it would take a piece of raw or thawed chicken 20 to 30 minutes to cook properly, plan to cook frozen chicken for at least 40 to 55 minutes.
Frozen chicken needs to be cooked evenly and thoroughly to prevent illness caused by harmful bacteria such as salmonella in undercooked food. For this reason, it is important to have an instant-read thermometer, like this excellent one found on Amazon, handy to ensure the chicken reaches a temperature of 70°F. Anything below this temperature would mean a piece of chicken that’s well cooked outside but still frozen in the internal parts.
Safe Cooking Methods and Recommended Chicken Sizes
While there are several methods of cooking chicken, the only recommended methods of cooking frozen pieces are in the oven and on the stove. The reason for this is because these are the only methods that facilitate quick heating of the meat and prevent harmful bacteria growth.
It is safe to boil frozen chicken on a stovetop. This method is preferable for chicken breasts or smaller pieces. Simply put the frozen pieces in a stockpot, add water and your favorite ingredients, and cover it and allow it to simmer. It is important to remember to cook for twice the normal time or longer, depending on the size of the chicken.
Larger pieces of chicken, whole chickens, and chicken breasts can be cooked in the oven. You may also slice or dice them into strips so they can cook faster. For this method, remember not to go lower than 350°F to kill bacteria that survive at lower temperatures. You should preheat the oven to 350°F before you start cooking.
Can You Cook Frozen Chicken in A Frying Pan?
It is safe to cook frozen chicken in a frying pan or skillet. You can use this method with chicken breasts or smaller sizes of meat. Here’s one of the easiest and most common ways to cook frozen chicken in a frying pan.
- First coat the bottom of the pan with cooking oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter) and turn on the pan to medium-high heat.
- Maintaining the medium heat, place your chicken breasts or slices of chicken in the preheated frying pan and season it to your liking.
- Add about a half of a cup of water around the breasts and cover the pan with a lid.
- Allow the chicken breasts or pieces to simmer for about 20 minutes and then flip them over with kitchen tongs or a fork.
- Lower the heat and cover the pan, letting the chicken cook for another 15 minutes.
- After cooking for 15 minutes, turn off the heat and let the chicken sit for at least 5 minutes before serving it.
Remember to check the temperature of the meat with your thermometer before serving. The temperature must be at least 165°F to be safe for eating. If you get something lower, simmer the chicken again for another 10 to 15 minutes. Also, check if the breast is not pinkish at its center.
What Is the Best Way to Cook A Whole Frozen Chicken?
Cooking a whole chicken is best done in an oven. If you purchased a commercially prepared whole frozen chicken, you would want to remove the packaging and the bag of giblets containing the chicken’s heart, gizzards, liver, and neck. The bag and the packaging can sometimes be difficult to remove, but running it under slightly warm water can help get rid of them easily.
To cook a whole frozen chicken in an oven:
- Turn on the oven and preheat it to 350°F.
- Place the chicken on a large roasting rack with the breast side facing up.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and other seasonings of your choice.
- Place it in the preheated oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours (for a 4-pound chicken).
- Turn up the temperature to 450°F and cook for an additional 15 to 30 minutes.
- Take out the pan from the oven and check if the temperature of the meat is up to 165°F
If the meat has any pinkish or reddish color, place the chicken back in the oven and cook until it disappears. Let the chicken sit for at least 10 minutes before carving.
How Long Does It Take to Cook a Whole Frozen Chicken?
Cooking times vary depending on the size of the bird and the temperature at which it is cooked. It would take a 5-pound raw or thawed whole chicken at least 2 hours to cook properly at 350°F. So, for a similarly sized whole frozen chicken, cooking may take up to 3 to 3.5 hours at the same temperature.
Cooking Safety Tips and Guidelines
Cooking frozen chicken is typically not a difficult thing, but if you’re doing it the wrong way, you’ll be putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. Here are a few important tips and guidelines to keep in mind.
- Never use a slow cooker or crockpot for cooking frozen chicken. If you must use a slow cooker or crockpot, the USDA recommends thawing the chicken before cooking it.
- It is not recommended to cook frozen chicken in the microwave as its temperature is hard to regulate, which can lead to bacteria growth.
- Only thaw frozen chicken in cold water, in the refrigerator, or in a microwave.
- If you thaw frozen chicken in a microwave, you must cook it immediately after.
There are several ways and methods by which frozen chicken can be safely cooked. The most important things to keep in mind are the temperature conditions, cooking times, chicken sizes, and cooking methods that prevent the formation and growth of harmful bacteria.
Here are tips that can help you in safely cooking frozen chicken:
- Cook frozen chicken for twice the time you would cook raw or thawed pieces
- Ensure the chicken reaches a temperature of 165°F before serving, use a meat thermometer to make sure.
- When cooking in the oven, never go below 350°F
- Never cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker or crockpot
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