10 Chicken Chains That Never Freeze Their Chicken

Plenty of discerning customers prefer to avoid food items made with chicken that was frozen beforehand — there's a reason, after all, that the phrase "never frozen" is so often invoked in advertising for chain restaurants that serve chicken. While it's technically possible to freeze and thaw chicken in a manner that makes it hard to differentiate the result from a fresh batch, the pitfalls of frozen chicken largely have to do with moisture turning into ice and leeching flavor from the bird. Without thawing properly, a cooked piece of frozen chicken can become more watery than normal and lack a distinct taste.

Of course, quick-service chain restaurant food production typically prioritizes factors like standardization and speed over the freshest possible flavor, resulting in plenty of chains that serve frozen chicken anyway. That said, several chicken-focused chains do make an effort to only ever prepare their chicken fresh, setting them apart from much of their competition. For the freshest possible product, chicken aficionados should choose one of the following 10 chains, each of which is committed to never freezing its chicken.

Raising Cane's

At Raising Cane's, main dish options are limited to just one item in a few different configurations: the chicken fingers. Raising Cane's chicken fingers are either served as-is or as the protein component of a sandwich. Since chicken is so much more integral to the Raising Cane's menu than most other restaurants, it's perhaps unsurprising that it is one of the larger chains to promise that its chicken is prepared fresh and never frozen.

Fortunately, Raising Cane's claim is corroborated by firsthand accounts from employees, including alleged employees who recounted some of their experiences working at the chicken chain in a Reddit AMA. "Our chicken is always fresh and never frozen," they wrote, claiming about two years of experience in a Raising Cane's kitchen. Of course, limiting its chicken to just one style of preparation is probably part of the company's ability to ensure fast service without sacrificing quality.


Even if we only count KFC and Popeyes restaurants, many customers have a choice between at least a couple of fast food restaurants that serve traditional, bone-in fried chicken. If picking a chain committed to never freezing their chicken is a priority, KFC excels in this regard.

It's worth noting that, unlike some chicken chains, KFC does not regularly incorporate the phrase "never frozen" into its marketing materials. Nevertheless,  firsthand accounts from employees and even occasional statements from company representatives confirm that the chain always serves its chicken fresh. In two different Reddit threats, posters claiming to be current or former employees explained that KFC never freezes its chicken. "Chicken looks the exact same as if you'd buy it in a grocery store," one wrote.

Back in 2012, then-president of KFC John Cywinski described the chain's chicken as "never frozen" in a press release. While company executives are seldom this direct about the fact — perhaps to cover their bases if they ever do end up incorporating frozen chicken — KFC is one chicken chain that seems to still be actively committed to freshness all the same.


As nearly constant lines of cars in the chain's drive-thrus make clear, Chick-fil-A is the first chain plenty of fast food regulars associate with chicken. Of course, the flagship menu item at Chick-fil-A is its chicken sandwich, available with standard breading, spicy breading, or grilled. Also offered are nuggets, strips, and a variety of breakfast items.

One of the secrets to the level of quality is how Chick-fil-A prepares its chicken. It's worth noting that Chick-fil-A receives its chicken frozen, but rather than store that chicken in a freezer, it's left long enough to defrost properly. Then it's prepared in-store. "It is raw and is breaded and fried in store," said one Redditor regarding how the chain makes its chicken.

So, while the chicken is frozen for the sake of preservation during transportation, it's not kept frozen at any point after arriving. from that point on, freshness becomes the chain's priority.

El Pollo Loco

Compared to chains like Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane's, the menu at El Pollo Loco is considerably less chicken-heavy. Customers here can order alternative proteins like shrimp and pork, but there's still a reason the restaurant isn't called El Puerco Loco — chicken is clearly its focus and is available in far more menu items than any other protein.

El Pollo Loco promises that the chicken after which the restaurant is titled is never frozen. Freshness is so important to the company that most locations provide customers with an open view of their kitchens. During working hours, the centerpiece of the cooking space is a large grill on which chickens at various stages of preparation are readily visible. While this isn't quite the same thing as verifying that its chicken isn't ever frozen, it is a testament to the fact that the chicken is prepared fresh and on-site.

At one point in the mid-2010s, El Pollo Loco introduced chicken tenders to its menu that may well have been frozen. Those didn't last long, however, and since this particular item's removal from the menu, it's safe to say that the chain adheres to its "never frozen" promise.

Pollo Campero

One of the fastest-growing chicken chains in 2024 is Pollo Campero. While the company has its roots in Guatemala, there are now more than 100 existing or planned Pollo Campero locations across the United States. The variety of chicken offerings on its menu positions Pollo Campero against just about every conceivable competitor — main dish options include grilled chicken, fried chicken, sandwiches, nuggets, salads, bowls, and even empanadas.

Also like some of the top chains against which these items are competing, Pollo Campero promises that its signature chicken offerings are never frozen. "Freshness is really the secret ingredient for us," the company's director of franchise development Blas Escarcega QSRWeb.com. "Maintaining the quality and the freshness and the QA standards during the process are very important."

Escarcega also mentioned that Pollo Campero's chicken is marinated before arrival. Nevertheless, even if some preparation is happening off-site, once it's at the restaurant the chicken is kept out of the freezer and made fresh.

Krispy Krunchy Chicken

Krispy Krunchy Chicken is a national chain that currently boasts more than 2,600 locations in 47 U.S. states. Rather than operate out of traditional storefronts, like so many other fast food restaurants, the vast majority of the chain's locations are housed within gas stations or other convenience stores. Yet, its menu is sizable enough to rival its closest chicken chain competitors, including traditional fried chicken, tenders, wings, and a sandwich among its chicken offerings.

Contrary to what the average customer might expect from a gas station restaurant, Krispy Krunchy Chicken's signature menu items are all made from fresh, never-frozen chicken. In fact, in the restaurant's earliest days, founder Neal Onebane developed the first version of his signature recipe utilizing standard Tyson chicken. Even then, never-frozen chicken was a part of the Krispy Krunchy Chicken brand's ethos, which is something the company has never abandoned even as it ballooned well past Onebane's original Lafayette, Louisiana store locations and into a national fast food chain.

Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken

While Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken isn't quite a household name on the level of industry leaders like KFC, founder and company namesake Lee Cummings is the nephew of none other than KFC company founder Colonel Harland David Sanders. The famous recipe referenced in the chain's name comes straight from a member of what may well be fried chicken's foremost royal family. Most of the menu at Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken revolves around traditional fried chicken with various accompaniments, though adventurous customers can order gizzards or livers too.

One notable way Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken is similar to KFC is its commitment to never freezing its chicken. In fact, whereas KFC largely leaves the freshness of its product out of advertising, the never-frozen nature of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken is a cornerstone of the company and serves as the focal point of much of its online advertising. A February 2024 press release even describes never-frozen chicken as the company's specialty for the entirety of its nearly 60-year existence, positioning the never frozen verbiage more prominently than in marketing materials for much of its competition.

Chester's Fried Chicken

Chester's Fried Chicken is similar to Krispy Krunchy Chicken in that it has a massive reach and yet lacks traditional storefronts. In total, there are more than 1,200 Chester's Fried Chicken locations, each of which is housed inside an existing convenience store or supermarket. In fact, while Krispy Krunchy Chicken boasts a larger number of locations, Chester's Fried Chicken can be found in every state within the continental U.S., as well as parts of Canada. The menu at Chester's Fried Chicken is similarly expansive, including tenders, boneless bites, traditional bone-in pieces, sandwiches, and giblets among its chicken options.

"Our brand is centered around fresh, double hand-breaded, never-frozen chicken and making the best possible product for our customers," Chester's Vice President of Marketing William Culpepper told QSR. This is in line with the general tone of the brand's marketing, which aims to highlight how the quality of its never-frozen chicken is higher than what customers might expect to find in a convenience store.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

With 40 locations in 14 states, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is considerably smaller than some other fast food giants. That said, one way Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken stands out from its contemporaries is its service — meals are brought to customers by servers, though take-out is also an option for a quicker experience. The chicken component of its menu is relatively straightforward, allowing guests to choose between white meat bone-in fried chicken, dark meat options, boneless tenders, and a sandwich at some locations.

One ethos that Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken presents as a point of pride is a commitment to high quality even at the cost of expedience, not just in its service but while preparing food. This means cutting potatoes in-store, for example, in addition to never freezing its chicken. Like many of the other restaurants for which this is the case, Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken incorporates "never frozen" into advertising from time to time, using the phrase as an indicator of its signature fried chicken's quality.

Super Chix

Super Chix is a relatively new face in the world of chicken chains, with its first location opening in 2014. That said, Super Chix was always intended for national expansion — that first location was owned by Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. While the chain has since changed ownership, Super Chix expanded nationally all the same, reaching 17 states across the U.S. and 35 locations as of 2024. Chicken options at Super Chix include sandwiches, salads, and tenders, with plenty of flavor varieties for each.

Chicken at Super Chix is never frozen. While the wide range of menu items on offer would suggest that preparing everything fresh might pose some logistical issues, the chain's sandwiches and salads appear to use either one breaded or one unbreaded filet option. For menu items like its Nashville Hot or Buffalo Ranch sandwich, that breaded filet is tossed in a sauce. By incorporating customization options only after the chicken is prepared, Super Chix can commit itself to both a robust menu and never-frozen chicken.