Can You Cook Frozen Chicken Without Thawing It?
According to the USDA, yes—with one big caveat.
Cooking chicken is not typically a difficult process. You take your thawed cut, stick it in the oven or on the stove, and you cook it until the center is no longer pink and glossy, or an inserted thermometer has reached 165 °F. Easy, right?
However, some days are busy and the dinner hour rolls around before you even get a chance to think about what to make. On a day like this, you probably didn’t think to set out your frozen chicken breasts so that they could fully thaw for an effortless chicken-cooking experience. So the question is, can you cook frozen chicken?
According to the USDA, yes, you can safely cook your frozen chicken, as long as you follow a couple general guidelines.
In order to skip the thawing step and turn your frozen chicken into a fully-cooked, safe-to-eat dinner, use your oven or stove top and simply increase your cooking time by at least 50%. In order to do this, make sure that your chicken is frozen in such a way that the individual pieces can be spread out on a baking sheet or skillet. In other words, they’re not all frozen together in rock-hard cluster.
There's one big caveat: Don't try this in a slow cooker. They don't exactly explain why, but presumably it's for the same reason we would recommend against it: because the slow cooker cooks things slowly, there's a chance that the cold meat will spend too much time in the danger zone—the temperature range where bacteria are most likely to grow. In an oven or on a stove top, the cook times are much quicker, and the meat won't spend much time in that range.
Of course, we would not recommend consistently relying on this strategy, as a bird that’s been thawed properly will likely cook more evenly and taste better. However, we understand that dinner can sometimes be an afterthought, and it’s tempting to reach out for that Chinese takeout menu and call it a night. Fight the temptation of General Tso’s chicken, and opt for this cheaper and healthier dinner shortcut.