Here's What You Should Do If You Forgot To Thaw Your Chicken

Forgetting to thaw out your protein is the meal prep mistake we've all made — likely multiple times. One of the more troublesome items on this list includes frozen chicken breasts. It's very important to always follow food safety guidelines with raw chicken, and that includes frozen. Foodborne illness is no joke. Fortunately, the USDA guidelines are fairly straightforward on cooking meats and proteins from frozen. Yes, you can cook frozen chicken (via USDA). In the case of some stuffed whole birds, this is actually the recommended process. 

A likely reason that you have been taught to thaw your frozen turkey and other items probably has to do more with cook times than it does with the cooking process. The USDA recommends that if cooking straight from the freezer you will need to cook your item for one-and-a-half times longer than when cooking from fresh. For an 18-pound turkey, that's a prohibitive cook time, but for something smaller like a chicken breast, this is a doable fix. If you normally bake for an hour, bake for an hour and a half.

While food safety and time may be concerns, there's another reason many avoid cooking frozen chicken, and that's a dry taste and texture. Fortunately, there's a handy hack to fix that problem, too.

The secret is in the sauce

The secret to cooking chicken breasts from frozen is literally in the sauce — at least, according to Food Network's Heath Goldman. If you plan to bake your chicken straight from the freezer, try adding a moist sauce to lock in the moisture and prevent added drying from the oven. Goldman uses a mix of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and herbs, but any mix that helps seal in that juicy goodness can work. Combine the chicken and sauce mix on a baking tray and cook at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes. 

If oven baking isn't your thing, there are other tricks for getting juicy cooked chicken from frozen. Try poaching at a simmer on your stovetop. Goldman notes this won't be the prettiest method, but that you can infuse this method with flavor, such as marinara. Alternative liquids will vary this method in both texture and flavor. The stovetop is also a great way to simply sear and cook your frozen chicken, but don't try this with larger pieces, as you might get an overdone outside and underdone inside. Try thinner chicken fingers or chicken breast medallions if tossing straight into the fry pan.

So don't be distressed if you forgot to thaw that chicken — instead know that it's safe to cook, and you can prepare it multiple ways.