Pan-fried chicken is a wholesome and hearty meal that can be prepared quickly.
However, aren’t there occasions when we forget to take the chicken out of the freezer to make this dish?
When this happens, you may wonder if it’s possible to use the chicken as is. So, can you pan-fry frozen chicken?
- Is It Fine to Pan-Fry Frozen Chicken?
- 7 Steps to Pan-Fry Frozen Chicken
Is It Fine to Pan-Fry Frozen Chicken?
Yes, you can pan-fry frozen chicken, but with a few precautions. According to the USDA, it’s safe to cook frozen chicken and consume it. However, frozen chicken takes much longer than thawed chicken to cook. So you should check the internal temperature of the chicken to ensure that it’s properly cooked.
Let’s now look at all the steps to pan-fry frozen chicken.
7 Steps to Pan-Fry Frozen Chicken
Cooking frozen chicken is possible but tricky. The water molecules in frozen meat crystallize and form ice.
When you defrost or thaw it, this moisture evaporates slowly.
However, when you cook frozen chicken directly, there is no time for the moisture to evaporate.
The excess moisture makes the chicken cook unevenly. Hence, it’s usually not recommended.
The longer cooking time also increases the risk of meat being in the temperature danger zone of 40°F to 140°F, where germs causing food-borne illnesses multiply rapidly.
However, this risk is higher when you directly slow-cook or microwave frozen chicken.
It’s safer to grill or bake the frozen chicken instead.
Let’s look at the different steps to pan-fry frozen chicken without affecting its texture or taste.
1. Choose the Right Size of Chicken
Smaller the chicken, the better and more evenly it cooks.
This general rule applies to fresh and thawed chicken too.
However, it’s more important when you are working with frozen chicken.
When cooking a whole frozen chicken, pick a small one since it cooks faster than a large one.
It will be simpler to fit smaller chicken pieces in a frying pan.
You will also find it easier to check for doneness than when you are working with a big chicken.
2. Choose the Right Cut of Chicken
Just like size, the type of cut also affects the cooking time.
If you need to cook only one or two pieces, pick small and thin cuts for better results.
Pieces that you would normally deep-fry, like chicken wings and drumsticks, will cook faster than others.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to check the internal temperature of the chicken in different areas to ensure every part cooks properly, unlike when you cook thawed chicken.
Similarly, you will also find it easier and more effective to cook chicken nuggets or patties than whole cuts of meat since these are customized for faster and even frying.
3. Choose the Right Pan
The size and depth of cookware will affect the results when pan-frying frozen chicken. You will need a deeper pan for a bigger cut.
However, it’s best to avoid a shallow pan, even if you are working with a small cut.
The frozen chicken will release a lot of moisture during cooking.
So the pan you pick should be large enough to accommodate all the liquid that is lost.
It will also help if the base of the pan is flat and thick. A thick base allows even heat distribution.
It will also not heat up too quickly and leave the chicken undercooked.
When working with frozen chicken, we recommend using frying pans made of thick materials like cast iron or multi-ply steel.
They are better than stainless steel and aluminum pans that heat up too quickly.
4. Preferably Cook the Chicken in A Sauce
One of the biggest problems of pan-frying frozen chicken is that the texture of the cooked chicken can be unpredictable.
It doesn’t have to turn out like a fresh or properly thawed chicken.
Pan-fried frozen chicken often ends up rubbery because of the uneven evaporation of moisture during cooking.
However, you can overcome this issue by cooking the chicken in a sauce or broth.
The moisture from the sauce or broth will seep into the chicken and make it moist and tender.
To cook chicken in this manner, season the surface and then place it in a pan with oil.
Add enough broth or sauce to submerge the chicken.
Let the liquid boil, and then reduce the heat so that it simmers till the chicken is fully cooked.
5. Check the Internal Temperature of The Chicken During the Cooking Process
Frozen chicken naturally takes longer to cook than thawed or fresh chicken.
As a rule of thumb, you can expect it to take almost twice as long to cook thoroughly.
The exact duration would further depend on the size and type of cut.
Consuming undercooked chicken could be disastrous, as it can trigger various digestive problems.
To avoid it from happening, keep a close eye on the chicken while it’s cooking.
Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken at different places to ensure it cooks thoroughly.
Fully cooked chicken will have an internal temperature of 165°F.
All the areas should reach this temperature for the chicken to be properly cooked.
Check at both the thinner and thicker sections to ensure thorough cooking throughout.
6. Check the Color of The Chicken
Fully cooked chicken is soft and white on the inside.
It will not have any transparent parts or ooze any pink or red gelatinous liquid.
To confirm if the frozen chicken has cooked properly, cut it with a knife.
If any red or pink liquid oozes out of it, it needs more cooking.
You must continue cooking it. Cooked chicken will only have clear juices.
If you get a clean cut and the chicken looks creamy white inside without any red or pink bits, it’s done. You can safely consume it.
7. Follow the Recommended Cooking Times for Frozen Chicken
Regardless of the cooking method, frozen meat should be cooked for nearly twice as long as its fresh or thawed counterpart.
Here is a rough idea of the minimum time it would take different cuts of frozen chicken to cook at a temperature of 350°F.
- Chicken wings: At least 15 to 20 minutes.
- Chicken nuggets: At least 8 to 10 minutes.
- Chicken breasts: At least 25 to 30 minutes.
- Chicken strips: Depending on the thickness, it would need at least 8 minutes to cook.
- Chicken drumsticks: At least 25 to 28 minutes.
- Chicken thighs: At least 21 to 28 minutes.
The times mentioned above are estimates.
We recommend waiting at least this long before taking the meat off the stove to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked and safe to consume.
The actual cooking time would depend on various factors.
So it could take longer to cook the chicken depending on the size of the chicken, the dimensions of the cooking utensil, and the temperature of the stovetop.
If you lower the cooking temperature, it will take longer to cook.
However, this can prove risky since cooking at low temperatures increases the time the chicken spends in the danger zone.
Hence it’s more prone to carrying bacteria.