Can You Grill  Frozen Chicken and Is It Safe?

can you grill frozen chicken

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We all love a great grilled chicken, right? 

But what if you haven’t had time to defrost that chicken properly before you want to grill it? You might be wondering, can you grill frozen chicken? Is it ever safe?

People are understandably nervous about undercooked chicken because of its links to common food poisoning pathogens like Salmonella. 

However, if done correctly, you can grill frozen chicken safely; it just takes a little more time and effort. In this article, we’ll be walking you through the steps to turning frozen chicken into delicious grilled chicken without the risks. 

Is it safe to grill frozen chicken?

So – can you grill frozen chicken? The simple answer to this is yes, you can safely grill frozen chicken. However, there is a right and wrong way of doing it. 

You’ll hear many people say that you should never grill frozen chicken because the outside will end up overcooked and dry while the inside remains raw. 

Chicken legs on a grill
Chicken may look cooked on the outside, but remain raw on the inside if cooked the wrong way

The excess moisture released during the rapid thawing process will also impact the texture of the meat, making your grilled chicken slightly rubbery.

There is also a real danger of the meat not reaching the required temperature to kill all the bacteria that can cause food poisoning. 

Food poisoning might not have a reputation as a killer disease, but it’s worth remembering that there are around 135 million cases of salmonella poisoning that occur each year in the US, with around 450 of those infections resulting in a fatality.

The USDA recommends bringing all poultry up to 165 °F (73.9 °C) to render it safe.

If you’re unsure what temperature your chicken has reached, check the internal temperature with a good digital meat thermometer.

As long as you’ve brought the meat up to the recommended 165 °F (73.9 °C), then the meat is safe.

The simplest solution is to thaw the chicken out first before grilling. This makes the meat easier to prepare, and helps prevent any issues with excess moisture during cooking. 

What’s the best way to defrost a chicken?

The best way to properly defrost a chicken is to place it in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.

This method takes a little planning ahead but ensures that your chicken is thoroughly thawed out and ready to go. 

If using the refrigerator, plan ahead by allowing approximately 24 hours for every four pounds of raw chicken. This slow method allows for absorption of water through cell walls which can become contaminated with bacteria.

A whole chicken in a sealed package thaws in a tray in the fridge

There are a few methods for speeding up the defrosting process, such as submerging the bird in cold water or placing it on a dish and letting it sit under running warm water. 

These methods aren’t recommended since they can lead to an increased risk of bacterial growth. 

This is because the chicken is sitting in the ‘’danger zone‘ of around 40 °F – 140 °F (4 °C – 60 °C) in which dangerous bacterial colonies, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter, can double in size every minute. 

Can you defrost a whole chicken in a microwave?

Most modern microwaves have a defrost setting which you can use to defrost a whole chicken. 

However, this isn’t recommended since microwaves tend to work unevenly. 

This means that microwaving a whole chicken using defrost mode can take up to an hour and would leave parts of your chicken still frozen while other parts are completely thawed. 

The other primary issue with using a microwave to defrost your chicken is that the rapid excitement of the water molecules in the meat (which is how a microwave cooks food), can cause the breakdown of the cellular structure. 

This leads to the meat becoming rubbery, oddly hard in some places, and just generally unpleasant.

If you are going to defrost a chicken in a microwave, it is best to do so in stages and under a low power setting. 

This will let you defrost the bird without having the meat cook itself, which means that your chicken has more chance of coming out tasting like fresh poultry instead of warmed-up rubber.

What’s the best way to tell if a chicken is defrosted?

The best way to tell if a chicken is defrosted is to check its temperature with a food thermometer (we suggest the excellent new ThermoWorks Thermeapen ONE!)

There are old wive’s tales about testing the texture with your fingers, but prodding at a piece of meat will never give you a clear picture of how frozen it is inside. 

As with all other cooking techniques that require you to bring the meat up to the correct temperature, the food thermometer is your best friend.

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What is the best way to grill a frozen chicken? 

As we’ve already mentioned, it is indeed possible to safely grill a frozen chicken, although we would always recommend you defrost it first. 

There are, however, a few additional steps you need to take when grilling frozen meat.

First, you need to pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. 

You want it as dry as possible because any moisture on its surface will cause flare-ups due to excess grease splattering onto the flame below. Flare-ups tend to be quite dangerous, so do everything in your power to avoid them!

From this point onwards, grilling a frozen piece of meat isn’t much different from cooking one at room temperature: preheat the grill for about ten minutes before placing the bird over direct heat.

If using indirect heat, set up your grill using the two-zone cooking method. 

Two-zone grill set up
Two-zone grill set up

The only real change to your cooking method is how long you need to cook your frozen chicken and at what heat.

Cooking time needs to be increased by around 50%, and the heat reduced by about 20% to compensate for that longer cooking time. 

The combination of longer cooking time and reduced heat means the bird will uniformly come up to an internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C) without the outside burning and the inside remaining raw. 

It will also ensure the meat doesn’t absorb too much water as it defrosts, so the meat shouldn’t be rubbery.

Grilling Frozen Chicken Wings - BBQ Rando Style

Grilled chick recipes to check out

We have a range of grilled chicken recipes that are tried and tested. Here are some of our favorites:

Wrapping it up

While you can indeed grill frozen chicken, it is not really recommended. Cooking a chicken from frozen isn’t ideal, and you won’t get the best results from it. 

However, with the right precautions, which we’ve listed in our guide above, it can be done safely and produce some decently edible results. 

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