Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

What comes to mind when this question gets thrown at you “can you marinate frozen chicken?” Well, technically, you can marinate frozen chicken. It is theoretically possible. But you are definitely not going to escape the drawbacks that will eventually follow.

First, your marinade will get watered down by the ice retained in the frozen chicken. And this will drastically slash down the effectiveness of your marinade as the retained ice will liquefy to increase the volume of the marinade and decrease the concentration of the flavor therein. 

To be clear, a bowl of marinade doesn’t just magically pump flavors to your chicken. The chemistry behind this is, that the chicken, through its pores, absorbs the contents of the marinade and gets soaked up in an ideal way such that it becomes tender and juicy.

But this will become very difficult with a frozen chicken because the tissues are rigid and have less permeability, as such, the marinade rarely gets into it.

However, here is a little hack. From the onset, you can decide to add just a little amount of water to your marinade content and rub it up on the chicken in a way that will not affect the richness of the marinade even when the chicken defrosts and gives off its water content in the marinade.

While this may work to an extent, it still cannot be as good as thawing up your frozen chicken first before marinating it.

Marinating chicken and beef together
Image: @Mehaniq via Twenty20

While marinating your chicken is theoretically possible, for best results, you should defrost your chicken prior to marinating it. This will make the chicken tastier by enhancing the effect of the marinade after having soaked up in the sauce. Thawing your chicken for some time before marinating it is your best option.

How to thaw your chicken before marinating it

While many people advise the use of hot water to thaw chicken, it is relatively unsafe because the hot water gets to cook the outer surface of the chicken, and this cooked part becomes a safe haven for bacterial growth.

Below are the recommended safe thawing methods we recommend.

  • Coldwater thaw.
  • Running water thaw.
  • Microwave thaw.
  • Fridge thaw.

1. Coldwater thaw

Dip the frozen chicken inside a bowl of water that is filled up to ¾ of the container. leave it on the kitchen counter. Do well to empty the bowl and have it refilled after every 25 minutes. You do this because the degree of the warmness of the water has a direct proportionality to the time it would take for the chicken to thaw.

2. Running water thaw

Although this method is water-consuming, it is relatively faster than cold water thaw. All you have to do is to turn ON the tap after having put the frozen chicken in the sink.

3. Microwave thaw

When thawing with a microwave, make sure to use the “defrost” option in the menu. Your timing should not exceed two minutes.

Ensure that it’s an all-around thaw and not one-sided. While this happens, do well to check at moderate hours so that you do not end up getting the chicken partially cooked. Using the microwave to thaw usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes and is one of the fastest thawing methods.

An important thing you MUST note in microwave thaw is to cut the chicken Into smaller parts. The cons of thawing a whole chicken outweigh its pros.

4. Fridge thaw

Fridge thaw is one of the safest as it doesn’t support bacterial growth. Although it is relatively slow, it is good. If you must thaw using a fridge, then you should reduce the fridge’s cooling intensity.

Can you put frozen meat in a marinade?

Of course! It is safe. Since the meat is getting thawed in a safe manner that does not encourage bacterial growth — like in a fridge with a lower cooling system to aid thawing.

Although the effectiveness of the marinade will not come into play until the outer surface of the meat gets completely thawed. Nonetheless, no side effects can result from this. Although the ice crystals from the meat, upon melting, will mix up with the marinade. However, in this case, the effect will be negligible at best.

How Long Can You Marinate Chicken Before It Goes Bad?
Image: Envato Elements

 While it is true to agree that putting frozen meat in a marinade has zero side effects and is cool, this doesn’t sweep up the fact that getting your meat defrosted before putting it in a marinade is the best form of marination as regards meat.

Is it safe to marinate defrosted chicken?

Yes. There is no better way to marinate chicken than to defrost it before having it marinated. Here, you will be spared all of the cons that come with marinating a frozen chicken. This is because the absence of frozen crystals on an already defrosted chicken will aid easy penetration of the marinade into the pores and fibers of the chicken, such that it juices up easily and soaks up in the flavors therein as intended for it to be.

How long can a chicken be marinated in the fridge?

The minimum amount of time it would take for a chicken to sit in the fridge for marination and be ready for eating will not be longer than an hour. Although you may prefer a much longer time, that is the barest minimum.

However, if the question says “how long can a chicken marinate in the fridge and still be good for consumption?”, It would be right to say 6-8 hours. But this is for medium chicken cuts. Thicker cuts would necessitate that you leave for longer hours. Marination speed is also dependent on meat cut size.

Final Words

The culinary world is a delicate one. This is why the need to pay attention to details is of relevant and crucial value.

For this reason, this article is written on proven culinary principles born of my 12 years of having been a Chef and from the wealth of knowledge of other learned colleagues. I am certain that this will help you in no small way. Please follow through and stick to the guidelines therein.

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

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