Can You Cook Frozen Chicken Without Thawing?

by Tara Kimball

    With a light, versatile flavor that can adapt to nearly any style of cooking, chicken is an ideal selection for a variety of cuisines. If you planned on serving chicken for dinner only to discover that you forgot to thaw it out before preparation time, there is no cause for concern. Put away the takeout menu and adapt your recipe's cooking time for frozen chicken. Use a meat thermometer any time you cook poultry to ensure that it reaches the minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    You can cook frozen chicken in the oven with good results. Keep your oven temperature at 325 degrees Fahrenheit or above to protect you and your family from the bacteria that can grow at lower temperatures. Increase the recommended cooking time by 50 percent when you cook chicken without defrosting. For example, boneless chicken breast that would typically cook for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees needs 30 to 45 minutes if it is frozen. As in all cases of cooking chicken, time alone is not a reliable guide. Test the internal temperature at the thickest part of the meat.

    You can sear and cook frozen chicken on the stove top, either diced, whole or cut into strips. When you plan the cooking time for your meal, expect that your chicken will take 50 percent longer to cook than if it were thawed. Season your chicken, for instance with seasoning mix or a salt-and-pepper rub, before freezing or after it has thawed substantially in cooking. Another seasoning option is to cook it with a broth for added flavor. Seasonings put directly on frozen chicken will not absorb into the meat.

    The USDA does not recommend cooking frozen chicken in a slow cooker. Thaw your chicken before you put it into the slow cooker. The low, slow cooking style of this device creates an optimal condition for bacteria growth when the chicken is left at a low cooking temperature for an extended period of time before the meat is fully done. The highest heat setting on a slow cooker does not produce enough heat quickly enough to keep chicken safe from bacteria.

    Frozen chicken is not ideally suited for microwave cooking as it is difficult to maintain a steady temperature long enough to avoid the risk of bacteria. If you need to cook chicken quickly and it is frozen, defrost it in the microwave, then cook it in the oven or skillet immediately after thawing. Do not let microwave-thawed chicken sit at room temperature; the ambient temperature will encourage bacteria growth.

    About the Author

    Tara Kimball is a former accounting professional with more than 10 years of experience in corporate finance and small business accounting. She has also worked in desktop support and network management. Her articles have appeared in various online publications.