How To Cook a Whole Chicken From Frozen
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Learn how to roast a whole chicken from frozen. That’s right. It is possible. Straight from the freezer, to the oven, to your mouth. No defrosting required!
I have to admit to a little lazy obsession of mine. You see, a couple of years ago I was hired by a company to come up with a recipe that involved cooking fish from frozen. That’s right, directly from the freezer and into the oven. I was skeptical that it would work. But it really did. It’s now one of my favorite ways to cook fish. These days, I always have some frozen fish fillets on hand to pop straight into the oven on a busy weeknight.
That method was so convenient that I started experimenting with other things, like frozen chicken. A few months ago I shared with you about how to cook frozen chicken breasts. They turn out sooo good and it really is so easy.
And now today I’m getting a little crazier and I’m going to explain how to cook a whole chicken from frozen. Yes, this is a perfectly safe thing to do. Even according to the USDA. Oh, but as they caution over there, do not ever cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker. It doesn’t get up hot enough to kill any bacteria and actually leaves the chicken sitting for too long at unsafe temperatures. Just use the regular oven for this. Let’s do it!
Here’s a video showing you how, with written instructions below.
How to Roast a Whole Frozen Chicken
You’ll roast the chicken at 350ºF for most of the cooking time and then boost it up to 450ºF for the final 15 minutes to get the skin nice and brown. Note that you roast the chicken uncovered the entire time. If you covered the roasting pan, the chicken would steam and not brown.
The general rule is that frozen chicken takes 50% longer to cook than when it’s thawed to start. You can therefore consult a reliable source for chicken cooking times and multiply that by 1.5. The chicken pictured here is 4 lbs., which would normally take 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours to cook. When frozen it will take between 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 to cook through.
To cook a whole chicken from frozen it’s important to use a roasting pan that gives the chicken space. You don’t want it wedged in there but want room for the hot air to circulate around. SImilarly, you need to use a rack inside of your roasting pan. This is because you want the hot air to get under the chicken too so that it is defrosting and cooking evenly. So put a rack in the roasting pan. Then put the chicken, breast-side-up on the rack.
Seasoning and Stuffing
Drizzle the top of the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. You can optionally add garlic powder and/or poultry seasoning or whatever you would normally put on a chicken when you roast it.
You can’t put a bread or rice type stuffing inside of a frozen chicken because it won’t cook safely. But you can go in with some aromatics. Just don’t stuff it too full. You want air to circulate in there too. Two lemon quarters, two small onion quarters and a sprig or two of rosemary and/or thyme are perfect. If the chicken is frozen in such a way that you can’t get into the cavity, no worries. Just roast it for 30 minutes and then try again. Things should be soft enough to get in there.
Now, if the chicken came with that packet of giblets inside of it and you froze it with them in there, you can’t get them out now while everything is frozen solid. Not a problem. Let the chicken roast until the center has softened enough that you can remove the packet with a pair of tongs.
When is the Chicken Cooked?
I use two methods to test for chicken doneness. The first is just a quick test that my mom taught me. You grab hold of the end of a drumstick and give it a jiggle. If it moves easily in the socket, almost coming loose a bit even, then the chicken is probably done. I don’t rely on that as a final metric though. That’s just to know if I should bother taking the chicken out of the oven to test it with a thermometer.
If the drumstick moves a bit for me, then I take the chicken out of the oven and test it with an instant read thermometer. I go into the breast and into the thigh. Both should be at 165ºF. If they’re there, then your chicken is done. If not, put it back in for a little while.
If it is done, remove it from the roasting pan and put it on a carving board. Let it rest there for 10-15 minutes. If lots of juices are coming out, catch them to make gravy (my method for perfect gravy every time is here) or at least to make sure they don’t spill all over your counter.
A weird note: The last time that I tested this method of cooking a whole chicken from frozen, I got a 165ºF reading but when we carved it, there was quite a bit of pink/red near the leg joints. I was concerned so I put those pieces on a plate and microwaved them a minute at a time until the pink was gone. This had never happened before so I’m not sure what was up. Instead of the microwave, if your oven is still heated and you’re not in a hurry, you could put those pieces in a pan and continue roasting them for 10-15 minutes until they’re done. If any meat is red/pink or juices aren’t running clear (they’re tinged with red) the chicken is not safe to eat so please do take this extra step if you notice this problem.
Here are the instructions in printable form for you:
Roasted Frozen Whole Chicken
- 1-4 lb. frozen chicken
- 1/2 lemon (optional)
- 1/2 small onion (optional)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
- 1/4 tsp. coarse black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Put a rack in a large roasting pan. Put the chicken breast-side-up on top of it. If there are giblets inside of the chicken, see if you can remove them. If not, it's o.k.. Proceed with the remaining steps. If you can access the inside cavity of the chicken, put the lemon, onion, rosemary and thyme inside, if using. If you cannot access the cavity, it's o.k.. Proceed with remaining steps.
- Drizzle the top of the chicken with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in oven uncovered and roast for 90 minutes. If there are still giblets in the chicken, remove them when you can using tongs and wearing oven mitts (you should be able to after 30-60 minutes). If you wanted to add lemon, onion, rosemary and/or thyme to the chicken cavity but couldn't before, you should be able to now. Return chicken to oven and continue to roast .
- Increase oven temperature to 450ºF to help brown skin. Roast until drumsticks loosen easily when jiggled and all meat is cooked to 165ºF according to an instant read thermometer inserted into various places in the chicken (breast and thigh are best), 15-30 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a carving board. Let rest 10-15 minutes. Carve. If there is any pink or red meat, return those pieces to the oven or microwave them for 1 minute at a time until white.
Video by Leigh Olson. Article, photos and recipe by Christine Pittman.