How to Cook Chicken Breasts from Frozen
Weeknight dinners just got easier. There’s no need to thaw chicken breasts when you’re strapped for time. Here’s how to cook chicken breasts from frozen. Yes, directly from the freezer!
Strangely enough, one of the most popular blog posts on this website is the one with instructions for how to cook fish from frozen. That post was revolutionary for me. I had never thought of cooking fish from frozen until I was approached by a company that wanted me to experiment with it. It was such a successful and convenient technique that now I always have frozen fish fillets in the freezer ready to go straight into the oven for a quick dinner.
Can You Cook Chicken from Frozen?
Those quick dinners got me thinking, could I do the same thing with chicken breast? Is it safe? Yes!
I checked with the USDA and sure enough you can cook chicken breasts straight from the freezer. No need to panic about dinner if you’ve forgotten to thaw them ahead of time.
How Long Do You Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts?
When cooking chicken straight from the freezer, you want to cook for 50 percent longer than you would with unfrozen. Unfrozen chicken breasts usually take 20-30 minutes at 350°F. So for frozen chicken, you’re looking at 30-45 minutes. It depends on the size of the chicken breast though, really.
Preparing Chicken Breasts for the Freezer
When you bring the chicken breasts home from the grocery store, you need to pack them properly. The reason is that when it comes time to cook them you can’t have a big heap of frozen breasts in the pan. They will not cook evenly at all.
When you get your fresh chicken breasts home from the grocery store, put them in a single layer in a freezer bag. Lay the bag flat in the freezer, making sure that there is space around each breast. Alternatively, you can freeze them flat on a tray or plate and then transfer them to a freezer bag. Whichever way you do it, after they’re frozen you can jumble them up and put the bag upright in the freezer. The key is that the breasts stay separated.
These chicken breasts were frozen on a tray and then put in a freezer bag. You can see that even though they were touching in the bag they aren’t really stuck together.
Cooking Frozen Chicken Breasts, Step by Step
Preheat the oven to no lower than 350°F. If I’m doing breading, as I’ve done with the recipe below, I use a higher temperature to help brown the crumbs.
Put the frozen chicken breasts on a pan in a single layer. It’s best to use a broiling pan or a rack over a foil-lined pan. This way, any liquid from the chicken breast doesn’t leak out to steam them. But I’m usually lazy and just use my regular sheet pan. Mine’s this really good heavy-duty one and it works great and is ideal if you’re doing a high temperature like I often do.
Doctor them up! Season them with salt and pepper and anything else you like.
If you want to use a sauce (like BBQ sauce), it’s best to wait until the last 10-15 minutes of cooking time.
If you want to do a breading, see the recipe below. But basically, I brush them with mustard and then sprinkle on some bread crumbs that have been mixed with a bit of oil to help the browning process. I use mustard because it’s easier to brush on and have the bread crumbs stick then it would be to dredge frozen chicken breasts in flour and then egg wash. This is a very simple solution.
Bake the chicken breasts for 50 percent longer than they would normally take. Unfrozen chicken breasts usually take 20-30 minutes at 350°F. So for frozen chicken, you’re looking at 30-45 minutes. It depends on the size of the chicken breast though, really.
If you’re doing a breading, as I have done in the recipe below, the oven temperature needs to be higher. But it will still take nearly the same amount of time.
Make sure to use an instant-read thermometer when you think the chicken breasts are done. The temperature needs to be 165°F. A thermometer is the safest bet to make sure that they’re done. But if you know what you’re doing and trust yourself, you can cut into the thickest part of one and make sure that it’s not pink inside.
Once you discover how easy this is and how delicious the chicken turns out, make plans to try another from-frozen recipe. Here are some of my tastiest ideas, including Chicken Parmesan and Chicken Cordon Bleu from frozen. Yes, it really is possible to make those classics and so much more using frozen chicken breasts.
Here’s a video showing how to cook chicken breasts from frozen followed by printable instructions for you:
There’s no need to thaw chicken breasts when you’re strapped for time. You pretty much cook them like normal but add 50% more cooking time.
- 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs (panko crumbs turn out way better, if you have them)
- 1 Tbsp. cooking oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 4 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts that have been frozen individually
- 4 tsp. mustard (yellow or dijon)
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl combine the breadcrumbs, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.
- Put the chicken breasts on the prepared baking sheet. Spread or brush 1 teaspoon of mustard onto each breast. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, pushing down to help them adhere to the mustard.
- Bake until chicken is 165°F according to an instant read thermometer, 30-40 minutes.
Video by Leigh Olson. Article, photos and recipe by Christine Pittman.
This post was originally published in April 2017 and was revised and republished in August 2020.