Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken? Is It Safe?

can you marinate frozen chicken

First of all, to get the best results from marinating chicken, the best thing you can do is to thaw or defrost your chicken first and then proceed with a marinade.

However, suppose you wonder whether you can marinate frozen chicken or not. In that case, the quick answer is that technically it is possible to marinate frozen chicken. But you shouldn’t because it doesn’t work well, and your expectation from marinating the chicken will remain unfulfilled.

What is Marinade? Why Marinate Chicken?

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service define a marinade as a sauce that is acidic and savory. If you soak meat, the meat becomes tenderized and the flavor enhanced.

And people love to marinate chicken to add extra flavor to the chicken and make it more tender.

Marinades are a mixture of your favorite cooking oil, wine, vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs and other spices. When you marinate the meat, with the help of oil and the acid of the marinade, the meat absorbs all the flavors of spices and herbs.

The acid in the marinade tenderizes the meat by breaking down the tissues of the meat. Then the meat tissues become juicier as they soak up more liquid. 

Caution :

If you use excess acid in the marinade, it will cause the opposite effect. This means that your meat can be tough and stringy.

marinated chicken rested in a tray
Image credit: Slawomir Fajer, Shutterstock

Should You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

We marinate chicken to infuse it with a juicy, savory flavor. But when the chicken is frozen, it cannot absorb the flavors well. Why?

Because when you do this, 

  • The water and ice of that frozen chicken will mix with your marinade and make it less effective. 
  • The marinade’s flavor that you rely on for your chicken meal will decline significantly. 
  • The meat will not be nearly as tender or juicy as what a traditional marinade for raw chicken would provide. 

Is It Safe to Marinate Frozen Chicken?

Yes, it is safe to marinate a chicken directly from the freezer. 

Caution :

Make sure to thaw the chicken in the fridge before cooking it to avoid the formation of harmful bacteria. 

And NEVER leave the chicken on the counter while marinating or thawing it because it can be dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the danger zone for harmful bacteria to thrive and cause food poisoning is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, you should thaw the chicken-

  • In the refrigerator
  • Under cold water, or
  • In the microwave but left out on the counter. 

For marinating the frozen chicken, the refrigerator is the safest place.

How to Marinate Frozen Chicken?

  • Prepare the marinade first.
  • Use a resealable bag or an airtight container to place the frozen chicken and pour the marinade. If you are using a resealable bag, squeeze out air as much as possible before sealing it.
  • Put the bag or container in the fridge and let the chicken thaw overnight. 
  • Flip the chicken after it defrosts partially, and then pour more marinade. (You should drain the marinade you first added and pour in the fresh marinade.)
  • After the chicken is fully thawed, toss out the marinade, dry out the chicken, and cook as you want. 

Note: Store-bought marinated chicken can also be frozen, thawed, and cooked. 

Bonus Read!

Tips for Marinating Frozen Chicken

  1. Prepare some extra marinade. If you keep adding marinade and massage it into the meat as it thaws, it will be able to soak up the flavors better.
  2. You can make marinades that also work better with frozen meat.
  3. Use enough oil and acidic ingredients to make the meat tender and flavorful when you cook it.
  4. The best tip is to marinate the fresh chicken before freezing it so that the chicken can absorb the marinade as it freezes.

Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken Overnight?

Suppose you are determined to marinate frozen chicken. In that case, this extended process of marinating it overnight will give you a better result. 

  • When you let your frozen chicken marinate overnight, it will get some extra time to thaw and absorb all that flavor.

But note that as chicken defrosts, the water and ice of the chicken will bring down the effectiveness of your marinade. 

But when you have a whole night before you cook the chicken, why don’t you thaw the frozen chicken in the fridge overnight and then soak it in the marinade in the morning.

Trust me; this will be a far more effective method.

How to Freeze Marinated Chicken?

If you marinate the chicken first before freezing it, it will absorb the flavor while freezing. And another benefit is that the chicken and marinade will defrost together before you cook it, and you will get a more effective result.

Follow the below steps.

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces so that there isn’t much meat to seep through while thawing.
  2. Use a resealable bag or an airtight container to place the frozen chicken and pour the marinade.
  3. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the resealable bag.
  4. Move the container or bag to the freezer and freeze the chicken until you want to cook it.

A Special Recipe for Frozen Chicken Marinade

If you want to marinate frozen chicken, you can follow the below mango marinade recipe to add both nutrition and flavors to your meal.


  • 1 fresh mango
  • 2 tbsp of orange juice
  • 1 tbsp of organic canola oil
  • 2 tbsp of ginger root
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp of brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp of fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes

Steps to follow:

Step 1: Remove the pit from the peeled mango and slice the pulp into big pieces. Peel and finely chop the ginger root. Also, finely mince the garlic.

Step 2: Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Step 3: Once the marinade is ready, soak the chicken breasts in it and let them sit for at least two hours in the fridge. USDA suggests you marinate the chicken in the fridge for up to 2 days.

The amount of the ingredients in this recipe will work for 2 pounds of meat.

Thaw Chicken Before Marinating

If you have time, defrosting the chicken first and then marinating it would be the perfect call. Also, there are so many methods to thaw chicken even faster.

In the Microwave (The Fastest Method)

You cannot defrost a whole chicken in a microwave. What you need to do is-

  1. Place one/two pieces of frozen chicken on a microwave-safe plate or container.
  2. Set defrosting mode on your microwave for 2 minutes.
  3. Check and flip the chicken pieces to thaw them evenly.
frozen chicken in the mizrowave
Image credit: NatalyaBond, Shutterstock

In the Refrigerator ( The Safest Method)

This method takes at least a whole day and at most 2 days to defrost the chicken. Although it’s a time-consuming method, it’s the safest, recommended, and followed method.

Follow the below steps to defrost the chicken in the refrigerator.

  1. First, wrap the chicken and place it in a dish or container.
  2. Put the dish or container in the fridge.
  3. Keep the temperature at 40°F or below. 

Under the Cold Water (1 hour) 

Using this method, you will be able to defrost 1 pound of chicken in around 1 hour. But if the chicken is 3 or 4 pounds, it will take 2-3 hours.

Thawing chicken using the cold water method is very easy.

  1. Put your chicken in a waterproof bag to protect meat tissue from damage and prevent the food from contacting any bacteria.
  2. Pour cold water to fill a large bowl halfway and immerse the chicken bag. Keep changing the water every 30 minutes.

Can You Season Frozen Chicken?

Unlike marinating, seasoning means flavoring food with herbs, spices, or salt. Well, you can season the frozen chicken, but

  • It may be less effective, and the flavoring may only be limited to the surface.
  • When seasoning frozen meat, the difficulty is that as it thaws, the ice starts to turn into water and causes a decline in the flavor of your seasonings. 
  • It also stops the flavor from penetrating the meat.

Bottom Line

Though marinating frozen chicken has some drawbacks, you can still marinate it without ruining the chicken completely. And it’s also safe.

However, if you have time, it’s better to thaw the chicken first and then marinate it. 

Enjoy your chicken meal!

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