Last updated on January 12th, 2024 at 09:12 am

Can you dry rub, season or marinate frozen chicken and how to do it right


seasoned frozen chicken breast
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There may not always be time to thaw a whole chicken or chicken pieces before cooking. You may even be tempted to add a dry rub or wet marinade to frozen chicken in order to save time.

The question is: is it possible to dry rub or marinate frozen chicken and, if so, what would be the correct method to ensure that there is sufficient flavor?

Dry rub or marinade can be used on frozen chicken or chicken pieces, provided that the correct method of application and cooking technique is used. Frozen chicken retains water, which may affect how the rub or marinade sits on the chicken and how well the flavors are absorbed into the chicken. Mixing the rub with oil and using rapid heat to cook the chicken yields the best results.

Can you dry rub or season frozen chicken

Yes and no. Let me explain: Frozen chicken retains water that is released during the thawing process. The seasoning or dry rub may not sit well on the frozen chicken or even be absorbed into the chicken properly. 

As the chicken thaws, it releases water which may cause the dry rub or seasoning to drip off the chicken. Even worse, it may dull the flavor of the chicken if not applied correctly. 

The cooking technique will significantly affect the success and flavor of the dry rub or seasoning. If you intend to cook the chicken directly from the freezer, using an air fryer for example, then applying dry rub to the chicken may yield good results. 

Whether you are cooking a whole chicken, drumsticks, breasts, or wings only, this method should yield great results. 

However, if you intend on allowing the chicken to thaw with the added dry rub/seasoning mix, the results of the cooked chicken may not be as expected.

Also, if you freeze multiple chicken cuts like drumsticks or wings togetherthen applying the dry rub, seasoning or marinade is not a good idea. Chicken cuts that are stuck frozen in the middle won’t even be seasoned, and after it thaws, only the outer layer will hold the rub.

stuck frozen chicken drumstick

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White freezer paper
White Freezer Paper Dispenser Box (17.25 Inch x 175 Feet Roll) - Poly Coated Moisture Resistant Wrap with Matte Side for Freezing Meats, Protects Against Freezer Burn
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fullstar 50 PCS Plastic Food Storage Containers with Lids (24 Containers & 24 Lids), Leakproof BPA-Free Containers for Kitchen Organization, Meal Prep, Reusable Lunch Container - (Pack of 50)
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Best for freezing
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Must have reminder for freezing item - write best before date and content

Ziplock storage slider bags
Ziploc Gallon Food Storage Slider Bags, Power Shield Technology for More Durability, 26 Count (Pack of 4)

Most versatile freezing bag, perfect for storing fresh food items like fruits, vegetables, meat, soups,

Aluminum pan/containers
55 Pack - Aluminum Pan / Containers with Lids / Foil Containers / Aluminum Pans with Lids / Take Out Containers / Disposable Pans / Aluminum Foil Food Containers / Freezer meals containers (2.25 LB)

Must have for microwave and oven dinners
- pasta, lasagna
- casserole
- meatloaf

Vacuum sealer machine
Vacuum Sealer Machine By Mueller | Automatic Vacuum Air Sealing System For Food Preservation w/Starter Kit | Compact Design | Lab Tested | Dry & Moist Food Modes | Led Indicator Lights

Best for keeping food fresh for longer
- meat
- vegetables
- fruit

White freezer paper
White Freezer Paper Dispenser Box (17.25 Inch x 175 Feet Roll) - Poly Coated Moisture Resistant Wrap with Matte Side for Freezing Meats, Protects Against Freezer Burn

Perfect for wraping meat
- steaks
- small and large meat cuts
- also great for bbq and grill

Plastic storage containers
fullstar 50 PCS Plastic Food Storage Containers with Lids (24 Containers & 24 Lids), Leakproof BPA-Free Containers for Kitchen Organization, Meal Prep, Reusable Lunch Container - (Pack of 50)

Best for freezing
- grains
- soups
- vegetables
- fruit

Removable freezer labels
300pcs Removable Freezer Labels, Yoget 1 x 3 Inch Food Storage Stickers, Refrigerator Freezer Paper Label Easy Clean Leaves No Residue, 2 Color Food Labels Roll

Must have reminder for freezing item - write best before date and content

Last update on 2024-05-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How do you dry rub or season frozen chicken

The following steps will highlight how to apply a dry rub to frozen chicken. Mix the seasoning or dry rub with a little bit of oil. If you intend on frying or searing the chicken or chicken pieces, aim for oil that has a smoke point, such as vegetable oil. 

Remove the frozen chicken from the freezer and run under tap water for a few seconds to remove any excess ice. Pat the chicken until it is completely dry by using a paper towel. Then, coat frozen chicken with the oil and seasoning mixture. Simply rubbing the spices on the chicken, without using oil, will not suffice as the spices won’t stick to the surface of the chicken.

Can you salt frozen chicken

Salt has a different effect on meat than most other spices. Firstly, salt, when applied without oil, penetrates deeper into the chicken, and secondly, salt causes the surface of the chicken to moisten momentarily. 

That moisture is eventually reabsorbed into the chicken before the cooking process. Of course, the deeper you would like the salt to penetrate the meat, the longer in advance, it should be applied. 

In this case, it may be best to allow the chicken to thaw first, as the salt may not be able to penetrate the frozen chicken. Run tap water over the frozen chicken and pat dry with a paper towel before adding the salt. 

This technique will work best when using rapid heat to cook the chicken.

Alternatively, you could also brine the frozen chicken or chicken pieces. Make a mixture of salt, water, and any other seasonings you may wish to add, and lay the chicken in the brine to absorb the flavors. This process will add a lot of flavor to the chicken.

Keep in mind that fresh chicken is usually injected with a saltwater mix to retain the moisture of the chicken after defrosting. But it is rarely enough to give the chicken any flavor.

Does seasoning frozen chicken affect the taste

Adding a dry rub or seasoning mix to the thawed/fresh chicken does taste different to adding the seasoning to the frozen chicken. This is due to the fact that the spices/flavor aren’t absorbed quite as well when the chicken/chicken pieces are frozen. 

The water released from the thawing meat causes the flavor of the spice mix to be dull as a result as the flavor from the rub/spice mix won’t penetrate as well on frozen chicken.

Can you marinate frozen chicken directly from the freezer

While it is safe to marinate frozen chicken, it may not be the best way to add flavor to the chicken. It is possible to marinate frozen chicken from the freezer, but it is not advised, simply due to the fact that the marinate will not hold onto the chicken very well during the thawing process and flavors do not absorb into the chicken as well either. 

This is due to the fact that the chicken is defrosting at the same time. The chicken releases water retained during the freezing process. The water washes the marinate off and affects both the flavor of the chicken and its ability to absorb the flavor from the marinate.

However, if you intend on cooking the chicken while frozen in an air fryer, simply place a sheet of aluminum foil in the cooking tray of the air fryer, and cook the chicken on high heat. This cooking technique should yield much better results than other methods, including allowing the chicken to thaw in the marinate first.

How do you marinate frozen chicken

Keep in mind that marinating frozen chicken will not yield as much flavor as marinating fresh/defrosted chicken. But, there are some additional steps that may help to lock in more flavor when marinating frozen chicken.

Add an acidic ingredient to the marinate to help the marinate to bind better with the chicken. But, when using an acidic ingredient, do not marinate the chicken in a metal container as the acidic mixture may react with the metal. Coat the chicken with the marinate and add more marinate while it’s defrosting to prevent the marinate from becoming too watery and running off the chicken.

In my personal experience, it may be best to add the marinate to the chicken before freezing it. This could help to absorb the flavors of the marinate before the chicken is frozen.

If you are pressed for time and simply have no other choice, run water over the chicken to remove excess ice and pat the chicken dry. Place the chicken in the marinated mix and use an air fryer to cook the frozen, marinated chicken. This should lock in more flavor.

Alternatively, it may be best to allow the chicken to thaw before adding marinate to the chicken.

Does dry rubbing, seasoning, or marinating frozen chicken affect the taste

Absolutely. The chicken will have substantially less flavor and taste due to the fact that the flavors won’t be absorbed into the chicken quite as well.

Is it better to defrost chicken before dry rubbing, seasoning, or marinating

Yes. The whole point of marinating or dry rubbing chicken is to add flavor to it. Frozen chicken needs to be thawed first before any type of spice mix, rub, or marinate is added to it. Prepare the spice mix/marinate before you defrost the chicken. While it most certainly is possible to add spices and marinates to frozen chicken, the results will be dramatically different to fresh/thawed chicken.

Conclusion

What is more delicious than a flavorful, juicy, well spiced piece of cooked, roasted, or grilled chicken? In order to lock in flavor, it is best to add spices and marinates to the thawed chicken in order for the flavors of the spices to be absorbed into the chicken.

Rok

I am a kind of person that would sneak a taste out of grandma’s pot when I was barely tall enough to reach it. I grew up in kitchens full of love and liveliness and have spent my whole live learning, experimenting and succeeding in the art of cooking. At Pro Family Chef, every day is an opportunity for a new meal and a brand new flavor. I created this website to connect people that love to cook, with the products designed to make their cooking easier, hassle-free and rewarding every time.

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