I received a lot of response from my article on 17 Ways to Avoid Food Poisoning from Chicken. The feedback was good and many of the points were helpful, however there was still some concern as to whether you can safely cook chicken from frozen.
The NHS says it is best to:
- Defrost meat and fish thoroughly before cooking. Lots of liquid will come out as meat thaws, so stand it in a bowl to stop bacteria in the juice spreading to other things.
- Defrost meat and fish in a microwave if you intend to cook it straight away, or put it in the fridge to thaw so it doesn't get too warm.
- Cook the food until it's piping hot all the way through.
- "Date and label meat in the freezer and eat it within 24 hours of defrosting.
This is best practice, but there are some times when an experienced cook can safely break the rules. Normally these times are emergency times such as unexpected guests or family members requiring a meal earlier than expected.
The long and short of it is that it is best to avoid cooking a whole chicken or chicken pieces with bones from frozen because the core or centre of the chicken will not reach a high enough temperature to cook through. However if you follow my steps below, you can safely cook chicken from frozen. Remember to use only whole chicken fillets or ones that have been frozen in slices or dices.
- Poached in Stock
This is my favourite method of cooking whole boneless skinless fillets of chicken from frozen.
- Place a litre of chicken or vegetable stock in a large saucepan. Avoid beef as it is too strong and will mask any flavour of chicken.
- Place the chicken fillets into the stock, making sure the fillets are completely immersed in the liquid. If not add cold water to cover the chicken completely.
- Bring to the boil slowly. Turn down the heat and poach for at least 40 minutes or until the centre of each chicken fillet has reached 70◦c and holds for 2 minutes.
- Use the chicken immediately sliced, shredded or whole served with a mushroom sauce or for Chicken Quesadillas.
Why not try poaching the chicken in sauce.
- Defrost the chicken fillets in a microwave, observing all the safety rules such as keeping the chicken in a bowl so that no juices leak onto the inside of the microwave. The chicken just needs to be defrosted enough to dice.
- Make the sauce such as curry or mushroom.
- Place the chicken into the sauce in a pot and very gently cook the chicken for between 25 - 40 minutes or until each piece is cooked. This of course will depend on the size of the chicken pieces. I cut mine about 2.5cm (1") squares.
- Make sure the sauce is piping hot and the core of the chicken very hot. The chicken pieces will leak juices so the sauce will dilute a little. I usually compensate by making the sauce a little thicker before the chicken is placed into it. Stir a few times to prevent the sauce sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
The final safe option for cooking chicken from frozen is to bake in an oven.
- Place the chicken fillets to be cooked from frozen in a roasting dish. Cover with foil.
- Cook in a moderate pre heated oven temperature at 160◦c for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, season, with herbs, or cumin and yoghurt or dry jerk rub or just a dribble of , lemon juice and a sprinkle of dried thyme, the list is endless. The reason for not seasoning before the chicken is defrosted, is simply because the toping won't stick to the frozen surface or will over cook.
- Place back in the oven and cook for a further 20 - 25 minutes or until completely cooked i.e. is piping hot inside or if using a thermometer 70◦c for 2 minutes.
- Serve immediately sliced with salads, vegetables and a carb of your choice.
- It is possible to serve the cooked chicken pieces cold, as long as the pieces are cooled quickly by removing from the roasting tin and placed in a cold container and into the fridge within an hour if the room conditions are warm and within 2 hours if the room conditions are colder.