I find chicken to be one of the most versatile meals ever. I can bake, fry, roast it, or use it in a salad or a sandwich. That is why chicken is considered among the top staple foods in the American diet.
Unfortunately, bacteria contamination is very high in chicken meals, meaning proper storage is necessary. This can be achieved through freezing. But can one safely eat frozen chicken?
Can You Safely Eat Frozen Chicken?
You can safely eat frozen chicken. If the chicken has been frozen continuously, you can take it out, prepare and eat it. Freezing the chicken preserves it. And as long as you prepare it well, it is safe.
How Safe is Frozen Chicken?
According to the US Department of Agriculture, a frozen chicken can remain safe for a period of up to one year. You will still enjoy a tasty chicken that has maintained its texture throughout.
However, chicken parts can remain safe for nine months, while ground chicken or chicken giblets can remain safe for 3 to 4 months. Cooked chicken will also taste okay after freezing it for four months.
To be more specific, frozen chicken stored at 0°F (-17.78°C) will last 12 months. Chicken stored at 10°F (-12.22°C) will last six months, and chicken stored at 20°F (-6.667°C) will remain good for about three months.
Is Frozen Chicken Healthy?
There is a common myth that frozen chicken is not as healthy as fresh chicken. That is wrong. In fact, there is no difference in nutritional value between frozen and fresh chicken.
Even though it is true that freezing a chicken can cause it to lose some nutrients, experts believe that as long as it is well packaged, the nutritional difference between fresh and frozen chicken is negligible.
Can You Cook Chicken Straight From a Freezer?
Yes, you can. If I’m preparing small pieces of frozen chicken, such as sliced and diced chicken, I cook them directly from the freezer and into the pan. However, I ensure that the chicken’s interior temperature gets to at least 165°F (73.8°C) to kill harmful bacteria.
But I prefer using the oven when it comes to large pieces such as breasts and thighs. Following a recipe, I will cook for 50% longer than the suggested time.
Baking and roasting are the safest, fastest, and most reliable methods for preparing large chicken pieces directly from the freezer. These cooking methods heat the chicken quickly, preventing bacteria growth.
Tips for Cooking Frozen Chicken
Here are the key steps I have found useful when preparing frozen chicken.
- Coat the chicken with butter, ghee, olive oil, mayo, or yogurt. Not only will you add taste to your food, but the fat prevents the chicken’s exterior from drying out as the interior continues cooking.
- If you are prepping large pieces like thighs or breasts, spread them evenly on the sheet pan. This will allow the chicken to cook evenly. I also like adding vegetables like cherry tomatoes to my sheet pan after cooking.
- Ensure the meat is properly cooked before taking it out of the oven. Because I’m preparing a chicken from the freezer, I ensure the internal temperature is 165°F (73.8°C) before switching off the oven.
Can You Cook a Whole Chicken From the Freezer?
I often get a lot of questions about whether one can cook a whole chicken from the freezer. The short answer is that preparing a whole chicken before defrosting it first is never a good idea, as the center will not reach the right temperature to cook well.
But with that said, you can still safely cook a whole chicken if you follow the steps mentioned below.
- Allow the kitchen to defrost at room temperature for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
- Set your oven at 350°F (175°C) as this is the temperature you will be preparing the chicken for the first 1 hour and 30 minutes. This is enough temperature to slowly cook the bird and ensure that heat reaches the interior parts.
- In the last 15 minutes, increase the heat to 450°F (235 °C) to give the skin a nice brown color. The interior temperature should be 165°F (73.8°C) before switching off the oven.
Is Frozen Chicken Already Cooked?
Even though these products may look browned or precooked, they need to be handled like any other raw product. If it is labeled ‘ready to cook’, ‘oven ready’, or ‘cook and serve,’ cook it well for your safety.
Frozen chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (73.8°C). The only way to ensure your chicken is safe for consumption is by using a food thermometer.
How Can You Safely Defrost Chicken?
Here are the three methods I recommend when defrosting your chicken before preparation.
1. The Refrigeration Method
I suggest using this method when you are not in a hurry. Remove the chicken from the freezer and place it in the fridge. Give it about 24 hours, then prepare it.
After defrosting your chicken, cook it in less than two days. The chicken is likely to go bad if you keep it in the fridge for longer than that.
2. Using Cold Water
Another way to defrost your chicken is by using cold water. Fill a large container with cold water and place your chicken inside. Small pieces defrost in about an hour, while large pieces can take about 2 to 3 hours.
Every thirty minutes, change the water to fasten the process. Once your chicken is fully thawed, cook it immediately.
I prefer this method as it is the quickest. Place your uncovered chicken in an oven cooking bag and set the microwave on the defrosting setting.
If it is a whole chicken, this will take around 10 minutes; if it is in pieces, it should take about 6 minutes. Cook the chicken immediately after it has fully thawed to prevent it from going bad.
What Happens When You Cook Chicken Before Defrosting?
It will take longer to cook. There is nothing wrong with not defrosting chicken first before cooking. The only requirement is that you allow the food to cook for longer.
If a recipe calls for one hour of cooking, use one and a half hours. This is to ensure that the chicken cooks inside.
You can safely eat frozen chicken as long as it is well-cooked. It is healthy, holding the same nutritional values as fresh chicken. Check that the interior temperature is at 165°F (73.8°C) before you can serve it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Tell That My Chicken is Not Good?
A change in smell, color, and texture indicates that the chicken is unsafe. If you notice the chicken turning to a gray-green color, with a slimy texture and acidic smell, discard it.
How Do I Properly Store Chicken in the Freezer?
Store it in an airtight container or bag. This prevents freezer burns and bacteria from growing or spreading.
At Room Temperature, How Long Can Frozen Chicken Sit Out?
Never allow your chicken to stay out for longer than two hours. I often check the chicken’s temperature using a thermometer. If the temperature is below 45°F, my chicken is safe.