How To Cook Chicken Breast from Frozen

How To Cook Chicken Breast from Frozen

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Meghan Splawn
Aug 28, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

Ah, the ubiquitous frozen chicken breast — how we love you! Chances are high you've got some hanging out in your freezer right now for future use — you know, for that rushed Wednesday night when you forget to thaw anything and need dinner in the next hour. What's that, you say? No way to thaw and cook chicken breast in under an hour? Here's the surprising thing about frozen chicken breast: You can take it straight from the freezer to the oven and cook it up in under and hour.

Not only is it safe, but this time-saver can also be tasty with a splash of olive oil and protective crumb coating. Your Wednesday night dinner rush is about to be saved.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

Is It Safe to Cook Chicken from Frozen?

According to the USDA, you can safely cook frozen chicken breast as long as you follow a couple of rules. First, plan to cook your chicken for at least twice as long as you might cook thawed chicken — for example, a recipe that calls for a 20-minute cook time with thawed chicken will require about 40 minutes with still-frozen chicken. Secondly, only use this technique with individually frozen chicken pieces that can be spread out onto an even layer to cook safely — not a big lump of chicken frozen together. Lastly, as with any chicken dish, use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the breasts reach 165°F.

Also, chicken cooked from frozen is still delicious! With the help of a few pantry staples, the chicken will have a golden crumb coating with the tender chicken texture we expect from breasts. It won't be quite as juicy as chicken that has had a proper thaw, but it won't be inedible rubber either.

For Your Information

  • This recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast. This is 4 to 6 chicken breasts, depending on their size.
  • These chicken breasts cook at 425°F for 30 to 40 minutes. The chicken is done when it reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  • Make sure you've got heavy-duty aluminum foil on hand for this recipe.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

Roasting Is the Secret to Chicken Breasts from Frozen

Having tried a few techniques for cooking chicken breasts from frozen, I can say that oven-roasting is the fastest and most reliable method. The high heat of the oven, combined with putting the chicken breasts in a single even layer, cooks the chicken from all sides as quickly and effectively as possible. Roasting's only failure might be that it leaves naked chicken breast looking rather lackluster, but luckily we've got a tasty solution for that too.

Four Key Steps to Cooking Chicken from Frozen

  • Make a tasty topping. For this recipe, we're using breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan, paired with some seasonings like garlic powder, salt, and pepper. You could also swap the breadcrumbs for almond meal.
  • Coat the chicken breast in olive oil. Or butter or ghee. I think yogurt or mayo would work well too, but at the very least you need some fat to protect the chicken breast from drying out on the exterior while the interior cooks to the correct temperature.
  • Spread the chicken breast out into an even layer with plenty of space between them. This ensures the pieces cook evenly from all sides. Also, if you want to add some quick-cooking vegetables (say, cherry tomatoes) to the sheet pan, be sure to add them after the first half of cooking is complete.
  • Make sure it's done! Because we're cooking the breasts from frozen, it's super important that the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165°F.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman/The Kitchn)

Serving Chicken Breast Cooked from Frozen

Here's my favorite hack for serving these frozen chicken breasts: While the chicken breasts bake, cook some pasta and toss it with your favorite jarred sauce. Serve the chicken breasts sliced on top of the pasta as sort of a weeknight chicken Parmesan. You can also just slice the chicken breasts and serve them alongside some roasted broccoli and ranch dressing as an alternative to the drive-thru you were considering on the commute home. This method will be a miracle meal winner.

How To Cook Chicken Breast from Frozen

Serves 6

What You Need

Ingredients
1/2 finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 individually frozen chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

Equipment
Measuring cups and spoons
Small bowl
Baking sheet
Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven and prepare a baking pan. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  2. Mix together the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and garlic powder. Place the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and garlic powder in a small bowl and stir with a fork to combine.
  3. Coat the chicken in the crumb mixture. Coat the top of each chicken breast with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with the crumb mixture, then pat and press to make sure the coating sticks.
  4. Roast the chicken uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. Roast the chicken breast uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. I know that seems like quite the range, but smaller, thinner breasts cook more quickly. Start checking the chicken for doneness at about 25 minutes.
  5. Test for doneness. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, probing from the side rather than the top if possible. Be sure to check every single breast before removing it from the pan to a plate to rest; you want an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part.
  6. Cool before serving. Cool the chicken for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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