The Simple Secret to Safely Cooking Meat From Frozen—Whether It's Steak, Chicken, or Pork

Forgot to defrost your meat? These tips will help you chill.

In This Article
View All
In This Article
cooking-frozen-meat-01-realsimple
Photo:

Cara Cormack

Sometimes, we nail it: We've meal prepped, chilled the wine, and gotten dinner on the table before anyone asks (read: whines). Other times, life happens. It's 7 pm, you're exhausted from a long day at the office, and you realize you forgot to defrost dinner. If failing to take your chicken breasts out of the freezer instinctively makes you want to call the local pizza joint, don't. One of the most common misconceptions about meat is that cooking from frozen doesn't work and leads to an inferior tasting result. Both of these assertions are wrong.

Not only can you cook beef, chicken, and pork from frozen, it also results in properly-cooked, juicy chicken, tender steaks, and delicious pork chops when done right. We tapped Chef Yankel, the lead chef at ButcherBox, to get his expert advice on the best (and safest) ways to cook meat from frozen. Turns out, it's surprisingly simple.

Steak

Chef Yankel's technique for easily cooking a steak from frozen is to place your meat (in its packaging) in a bowl and run it under some cold water while preheating your oven to 400 F and your cast-iron pan with some cooking oil at high heat. Remove your steak from its packaging, coat it with salt and pepper, and sear on one side for three minutes. Flip the steak and place it (oven-safe pan and all) into the oven for 15 minutes. When you remove the steak from the oven, make sure it has reached the desired internal temperature. Let the steak rest for five to eight minutes and slice against the grain.

Chicken

Cooking frozen chicken breasts or a whole chicken is a bit more of a challenge. It is not recommended that you grill or sauté frozen chicken—for a number of reasons. (For one, if the outside of the chicken cooks and the inside remains cold, harmful bacteria can grow.) You will get a much better outcome by baking or simmering frozen chicken in some kind of sauce. The key to cooking frozen boneless chicken breasts, thighs, or wings is to cook it twice as long (or more) as you normally would at a slightly lower temperature than you would for unfrozen poultry. Just don't cook below 350 F for safety.

Pork

For pork, you can cook from frozen on the stovetop, grill, or oven, but you must follow similar cooking time rules as chicken and beef. Cook for twice as long as you normally would and above the same temperature threshold as chicken.

Safety Guidelines

While cooking from frozen is simple and doesn't compromise taste, there are a few very important rules to follow when cooking meat directly from the freezer.

  • First and foremost, never cook frozen meat in a slow cooker or crockpot. Whether it's beef, chicken, or pork, cooking frozen meat in a slow cooker can cause it to spend too much time at a temperature at which dangerous bacteria (such as salmonella) can grow, no matter what temperature it reaches eventually. According to the USDA, always thaw meat before slow cooking it. There is potential for frozen meat to stay in what is called the "danger zone" — between 40 F and 140 F — for too long while cooking.
  • The safest way to thaw frozen meat is to move it from the freezer to the refrigerator. Generally, an average size cut of meat takes a day to fully defrost in a refrigerator. Larger cuts or whole birds (like a turkey) take about 24 hours per five pounds to thaw.
  • It is not recommended that you defrost meat by leaving it out on the kitchen counter, because uncooked meat shouldn't be at room temperature for more than two hours. This will bring it to the "danger zone" temperatures where bacteria can form. The same is true of thawing with hot water.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles