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Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken? A Double-Edge Sword

Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken? A Double-Edge Sword

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Do you know what the best thing about chicken is? Aside from the fact that there are so many ways to use it in your kitchen, chicken is a type of meat that can be frozen without any significant changes in quality. 

This is why you can choose when you want to buy it from the grocery store without too much worry that it will get spoiled or that its quality will deteriorate. 

However, real questions arise after the freezing process. Since one of the best ways to prepare your chicken is to marinate it, many people tend to ask about doing so after freezing, since it will save some of their precious time. 

So can you marinate frozen chicken? Yes, you definitely can, but you need to know what that brings to the table, as well as what are the best ways to do it. 

Marinating Frozen Chicken

frozen chicken with marinade

You just pulled out your chicken from the freezer, and the marinade is ready to do the job. 

Some people prefer soaking chicken in milk or marinating it in buttermilk, as it makes it quite tender and flavorful, but all types of marinades can do wonders for your favorite meat. 

But are you wondering whether it is a good idea to put the chicken or some chicken part directly into that flavorful liquid? 

Well, actually, you can do that. This is especially the case if you are short on time and need to prepare your meal quickly. This can eliminate the need for a separate thawing process, allowing you to start cooking sooner. 

Just like with marinated chicken, the process will help to retain moisture during cooking and infuse some flavors into the outer layers of the meat. But to what extent? 

Well, to be honest, this is a problem when it comes to marinating frozen chicken, but let’s see what exactly is the case. 

What Exactly Will Happen If You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

The process of marinating frozen chicken will indeed help you to make it more flavorful and tender. 

Unfortunately, you have to be aware of the fact that the end result won’t be as good as when using fresh chicken. 

All those flavors won’t be able to penetrate deeper into the meat, leaving the inside of it untouched and less flavorful. 

Aside from that, meat tends to defrost while marinating, which prevents the sauce from penetrating the chicken even more. 

Not only that, but it will also water down the sauce and make it less flavorful, so even the surface of the meat won’t be as flavorful and appealing. 

Finally, many people might wonder about the dangers of bacterial growth in this whole story. 

Fortunately, there is no significant difference between marinating fresh and frozen chicken in terms of bacterial growth, so you shouldn’t be concerned. 

The increased risk of bacterial growth can only happen if you haven’t handled it properly before freezing, i.e. if the meat was spoiled or if you’ve left it outside for more than 2 hours, as stated by the USDA. However, that is a whole different story. 

How To Marinate Frozen Chicken?

marinated chicken

There are cons, but as you were able to see, there are also pros, so I am not surprised if you decided to give marinating frozen chicken a try. However, you must know how to go through the process the right way. 

So, here are a few simple steps you need to follow: 

STEP 1: First things first, prepare your ideal marinade for the process. My advice is to make a more acidic marinade because your meat will then be more tender and appealing. 

STEP 2: Pull out your frozen chicken from the freezer and remove it from the original packaging. Don’t let your frozen chicken sit out for too long, as it can get exposed to harmful bacteria. 

STEP 3: Transfer it to a new container in order to prevent the frozen bag from clinging to the chicken. This way, the marinade will be able to seep through and evenly coat the surface. 

STEP 4: Transfer the container with frozen chicken to the fridge and allow it to defrost. 

STEP 5: After the thawing process and before cooking, remove the chicken from the container and make sure to discard all the excess marinade to avoid any potential contamination. 

How Long Will This Take?

Generally speaking, frozen chicken can last up to 24 hours in the fridge before unwanted organisms start developing that can lead to food poisoning or other foodborne illnesses. 

However, I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in the marinade for that long. From my experience, it is best that you leave your frozen chicken marinating overnight

This way, you won’t be risking spoilage and that will be just enough time for the meat to infuse all the flavors (especially if it is acidic marinade) and to tenderize quite well. 

Is It Better To Defrost Chicken Before Marinating?

defrosting chicken with water

Marinating chicken directly from the freezer is, indeed, possible. However, if you defrost it beforehand, the result will be even better. 

This is mainly due to the fact that your marinated chicken will be more flavorful after cooking. 

Namely, as the chicken thaws, the ice crystals melt, creating channels for the marinade to seep into the meat. This results in more thorough flavor distribution and enhances the overall taste of the chicken.

How To Defrost It Effectively?

Before you do anything with your flavorful marinade, you need to defrost your frozen chicken the right way. 

First, I have to emphasize that thawing at room temperature is never an option. This is because it falls in the category of the so-called temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F). 

According to USDA (US Department of Agriculture), the temperature danger zone refers to a temperature range in which bacteria can grow rapidly in perishable foods, increasing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

The best option is to thaw it in the fridge. All you need to do is to transfer the container with frozen chicken from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw overnight, i.e. for approximately 12 hours. 

You don’t need to cook it immediately after this time frame, but it is recommendable to do so within 1-2 days. 

If you don’t have that much time, you can also use a cold water bath method. All you need to do is to place the frozen chicken in a leak-proof plastic bag, and submerge the bagged chicken in a large bowl or sink filled with cold water.

Allow approximately 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound of chicken (0.45 kg) and then change the water. Once the chicken is thawed, cook it immediately.

Finally, if you are really out of time, see how to effectively defrost chicken in the microwave

Can You Go Another Way Round: Freezing Marinated Chicken?

delicious marinated chicken

Just like you can freeze cooked chicken, you can also do that with marinated chicken. Believe it or not, it is even preferable to do this when compared with marinating frozen chicken. 

Namely, you will be able to preserve it for up to 6 months and the freezing process will lock in all the flavors from the marinade, even after thawing. 

The first thing you have to do is to prepare your preferred marinade. After that, you can put the whole chicken in it and let it stay for up to 2 hours in order for it to infuse all the flavors. 

Although you can use the whole chicken, it is always better to cut it into smaller pieces, so that the marinade can penetrate deeper into the meat and make it tender and more flavorful. 

After the chicken is marinated properly, your next task is to transfer it to a freezer bag. Just make sure that you pull out all the excess air from the bag in order to prevent freezer burn. 

I would also recommend labeling the bag with the exact date of storage so that you can keep track of how long the chicken has been frozen. 

When you decide to use it, pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge overnight in order for it to thaw properly. Avoid thawing at room temperature because the risk of spoilage is too high. 

Once the marinated chicken has been thawed, cook it immediately. Also, make sure to cook it thoroughly to ensure it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F.

If you are interested in marinade recipes, in this video, you can find 7 marinades that are perfect for freezing. 

Final Verdict

So can you marinate frozen chicken? 

Although it is possible to marinate chicken straight from the freezer, it is always better to thaw it previously or marinate it before freezing. 

This is because marinating it frozen, causes it to lose some of its flavors, and the texture is affected to some extent as well. 

If you eventually decide to marinate it this way, you must marinate it immediately after the freezing process, let it stay in the fridge for at least 12 hours, and cook it right after that.