Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken

A lot of people think they can’t marinate frozen chicken.  That’s because when it’s in the freezer, all of the liquid inside freezes and expands, breaking open cells that release their contents into the meat. 

This is why frozen meats are often watery or mushy when cooked.  However, there are ways to get around this problem if you’re willing to do a little prep work before cooking your dinner!

So, can you marinate frozen chicken?

Technically, you can marinate frozen chicken. However, it is not the best idea. I recommend marinating fresh chicken rather than a frozen one. The reason is that a frozen chicken has already expanded the liquid inside, which also breaks down the structure of the meat.

The texture isn’t going to be as good when you cook it, and it will take much longer for the marinade to actually penetrate into the meat.

But you can marinate a frozen chicken if you have no choice.

What happens if you marinate a frozen chicken?

As mentioned, marinating frozen chicken is not recommended.   Because the meat is already frozen, some of the marinades may not be absorbed by the chicken. 

This will result in a severe concentration of flavor and possibly an unpleasant texture as well as some wasted ingredients.

It’s also important to note that food safety is compromised when you marinate partially thawed meat because it allows more time for bacteria growth than if the meat were fresh or completely thawed.

If you do not thaw the meat, bacteria will still grow but at a much slower rate.

Conversely, should you choose to marinate the fresh chicken first before freezing it, this will also slow down bacteria growth.

This is because the low temperature of the freezer prevents the bacteria from multiplying quickly.

Tips on marinating a frozen chicken

Although I do not recommend marinating a frozen chicken, it does not mean that you cannot do it at all.

After all, doing so won’t cause any health problems. Thus, if you want to do it, just make sure that you do it right.

That said, you need to follow some steps.

Step 1: Prepare the marinade

Before marinating, prepare the marinade. Choose a simple recipe and try to use ingredients that do not contain too much sugar or salt. And if you can, make sure it is made of oil, water, and an acid such as lemon juice. Of course, you can always consult a recipe book or look for a marinade that has been specifically made for frozen meat.

Step 2: Thaw the chicken

In order to thaw out the meat, place the bag in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. It will take about an hour for each pound of frozen chicken (or 30 minutes per ½ pound). Once the meat is fully thawed, you can soak it in your favorite marinade.

Step 3: Now, marinate the chicken

Now that the meat has been properly thawed, you can put it in a bag or bowl and cover it with your marinade. Place the bowl (or bag) in the fridge for a few hours. For the best results, you need to let it sit overnight.

Step 4: Cook the chicken

Finally, you can cook your chicken according to your recipe’s instructions. Keep in mind that cooking frozen meat takes longer than regular meat. However, if you are cooking a whole chicken, make sure you increase its temperature by 35°F.

How do you add flavor to frozen chicken without marinating?

I have mentioned that marinating a frozen chicken is not advisable. But do not worry because you can still add flavor to your frozen chicken without marinating.

The process of adding flavor should start when your chicken is still frozen. Your marinade must be prepared ahead so that by the time the chicken has defrosted, it would already be seasoned.

Do not place the bag in lukewarm water because this might encourage bacteria to grow. Instead, change the water every 30 minutes and ensure that it is cold – just like how you would thaw the chicken if you won’t marinate it.

Adding flavor:

Freeze your sliced onions and ginger. If you ever forget to prepare seasonings or marinade, these can be a lifesaver. Just grab a handful of these, defrost them and add it to your chicken.

You can also prepare powdered flavors by grinding dry bay leaves, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, etc. You can make use of this when you are in need of last-minute flavorings.

You can also use a small amount of prepared seasoning in a bottle. There are many options in the market and you just have to read the label for cooking directions.

If you see that the flavor needs to be cooked in oil, saute your chicken first before adding it.

Lastly, you can always purchase flavored cooking wine at the market. This is an ideal solution for busy cooks who are pressed for time during mealtimes.


You can add flavor to your frozen chicken as long as you follow the right procedure. Be proactive and do not rely on last-minute improvisations.

Prepare your marinade ahead, thaw it out properly and you will never complain about bland-tasting chicken ever again.

Final Thoughts

Marinating is a good way to add flavor to the chicken. However, it won’t work well with a frozen chicken.

If you want to add flavor while marinating the meat, prepare the marinade ahead of time. There are even ways on how you can add flavor without the need of marinating it.

Simply place your favorite spices on the chicken and put them in the freezer.  You can also add flavors by using ready-made seasoning or even cooking wine.

In the end, if you have a particularly busy schedule, you can always purchase flavored cooking wine from the market.

This is an ideal solution for a last-minute dinner especially when you find yourself pressed for time while mealtimes roll around.

With these tips, you can add flavor to your frozen chicken successfully.

Hope this helps.

Learn more about marinating here.