Can You Marinate Frozen Chicken?

Written By Acacia Crossley


More than once, you will forget to take your chicken out of the freezer and find yourself struggling to defrost your frozen chicken come dinner time. Is it possible to skip thawing your chicken and still have deliciously marinated chicken? 

There is nothing to stop you from marinating frozen chicken. However, the chicken will struggle to absorb the flavours, diluting them as it defrosts. 

Instead, if you want to ensure you have chicken imparted with plenty of flavour in the freezer, marinate it before freezing it.

Will Marinated Frozen Chicken Taste Good? 

The whole reason you marinate chicken is to allow the chicken to soak up some delicious flavours before being cooked. A marinade is the easiest way to elevate any chicken dish. 

Fresh chicken can absorb all that extra flavour like a sponge because the meat is soft and tender enough.  

Marinated Chicken

Frozen chicken does not do as well at absorbing a marinade’s flavour. 

When frozen, chicken is dense and practically impenetrable – like any frozen meat. It is not until the chicken has defrosted a little that it can be cut up, never mind absorb flavours. 

Any of the marinade flavours that frozen chicken may absorb will melt away or dilute as the water particles in the chicken thaw over time. 

Ultimately, your defrosted chicken will absorb and retain very little of the marinated flavour. 

Can Frozen Chicken Be Marinated Overnight? 

If you forget to pull the chicken out of the freezer in the morning ready for dinner, save yourself a lousy meal and prep your chicken the night before. 

Frozen chicken can last in your fridge for 24 hours before it starts to develop harmful bacteria. Use those 24 hours to really pump your chicken full of flavour. 

Prepare your marinate the night before and leave your frozen chicken in the marinade overnight. Remember to cover the chicken to prevent the marinade’s odour from affecting other food in your fridge. 

As the chicken defrosts, it will dilute the marinade flavour a little. So, top the marinade up with extra seasoning whenever you can remember during the day. 

Then, when you are ready to actually make your dinner, you will have wonderfully flavoured and defrosted chicken!

Frozen Chicken Marinade

Will Marinating Frozen Chicken Overnight Ruin Its Texture? 

While it is true that chicken meat will turn into a mushy mess if left in moisture for too long, you won’t have to worry about such an issue when marinating your frozen chicken overnight. 

For most of the marinating process, your chicken will still be partly frozen. It won’t have the chance to become mushy before you cook it. 

Some people avoid leaving their chicken in marinade overnight, worried that its texture will change too much. However, this is only the case if your marinade is very acidic. 

Many marinades will include vinegar, lemon juice or other acidic ingredients to tenderise the chicken. The longer that chicken (frozen or fresh) is left in an acidic marinade, the more tender it will become, eventually becoming too mushy to cook.

The solution to preventing frozen chicken from ruining in a marinade overnight is simple: Reduce the amount of acid in the marinade itself. 

If your marinade recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, only use a splash. Or, if you need to use vinegar, don’t add it until a few hours before you cook the chicken. 

So long as you then use your defrosted, marinating chicken within 24 hours and you avoid using an overly acidic marinade in the first place, then you can still have the perfect piece of chicken. 

Can You Freeze Marinated Chicken?

An easy way to ensure that your frozen chicken remains flavourful is to freeze the chicken in a marinade. 

When you buy fresh chicken, cut it up into manageable pieces and leave the chicken to marinate in your marinade of choice for up to 2 hours. This will allow the fresh chicken to absorb some flavour before being frozen. 

Then bag the chicken with the marinade and freeze for up to 6 months. 

Before the chicken completely freezes, it will be able to soak up and lock in the lasting flavour of the marinade. So when you come to defrost the chicken, it will already be delicious and ready to cook. 

You may want to re-season the chicken as some of the marinade’s flavour may become diluted when it defrosts. But either way, the chicken will still be tasty. 

Make sure to note the kind of marinade you have frozen the chicken in to avoid an oddly balanced dinner. 

The Best Marinade For Chicken

Chicken can handle a range of marinades, so you need to stick with a theme or cuisine when coming up with a marinade. An Italian-inspired marinade might include rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and fennel. An Asian-inspired marinade would use ginger, soy, miso, chilli and garlic.

Marinating Frozen Chicken FAQs

Do you still have questions about marinating frozen chicken? Check these out:

How Do You Defrost Chicken Quickly?

You can run frozen chicken under some hot water to defrost it. Once the chicken reaches 60C, you can leave the chicken to ‘soak’ in hot water to finish defrosting. Alternatively, you can use your microwave to defrost your chicken quickly. Ensure that you do not thoroughly cook it.

Can You Freeze Marinades?

Yes, if you have made too much marinade then you can freeze it in an ice cube tray. Pour the marinade into the slots of an ice cube tray, freeze and then pop the cubes out into a bag once solid.

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