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Can I BBQ chicken from frozen?

Many home cooks wonder if it’s safe or doable to grill chicken directly from the freezer. With some planning and preparation, grilling frozen chicken is absolutely possible. While it does require some special considerations compared to grilling thawed chicken, grilling chicken from frozen can be done safely and result in juicy, flavorful meat.

Is It Safe to Grill Chicken from Frozen?

Yes, it is safe to grill chicken directly from the freezer as long as you take some precautions. The main safety concern is ensuring the chicken cooks through fully. As long as the chicken reaches the proper minimum internal temperature, there is no increased safety risk from grilling it frozen.

The safe minimum internal temperature for chicken is 165°F. Using a meat thermometer is important to verify the chicken has reached this temperature throughout after grilling. As long as the chicken has met the 165°F mark, it is safe to eat even if grilled from frozen.

How Long Does It Take to Grill Frozen Chicken?

It takes significantly longer to grill frozen chicken compared to thawed. Cooking times will vary based on the size and cut of the chicken, but in general plan for about 50% longer cooking than thawed chicken.

For example, boneless, skinless chicken breasts may take only 6-8 minutes per side when grilled thawed. Grilling them directly from frozen can take 10-12 minutes per side. Frozen bone-in chicken parts like drumsticks or thighs may require up to 30 total minutes or more to fully cook through.

Tips for Grilling Frozen Chicken

Grilling frozen chicken successfully requires some special tips:

  • Use a meat thermometer to check internal temperature and determine doneness.
  • Cook over medium or medium low heat to allow time for thorough cooking.
  • Cut slits in the fatty skin side of chicken parts to help render and crisp the skin.
  • Flip the chicken just once during grilling to prevent drying out.
  • Brush on sauce late in the cooking process to avoid burning.
  • Allow thicker cuts to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Defrost first if time allows for quicker grilling.

Following these tips will help ensure juicy, flavorful chicken despite grilling it directly from frozen.

Should You Brine Frozen Chicken Before Grilling?

Brining is a popular technique that helps keep chicken moist when grilling. However, brining frozen chicken is not recommended. Since brining requires soaking the chicken in a saltwater solution, the chicken must be thawed first to allow the brine to penetrate.

It is best to only brine previously thawed chicken. If you want to brine the chicken, defrost it in the refrigerator before putting it in the brine. Grilling frozen brined chicken runs the risk of the exterior cooking before the interior seasoning penetrates.

Is It Better to Partially Thaw Chicken Before Grilling?

Many home cooks find it easier to grill chicken that has been partially thawed instead of grilling fully frozen chicken. Partially thawing alleviates a few potential issues:

  • Shorter cooking time compared to frozen.
  • More even cooking since exterior will not burn.
  • Better opportunity for seasoning penetration.
  • Skin may crisp up easier.

Partially thawing in the refrigerator for several hours up to a day helps with grilling. The chicken will still be quite icy in the center so some extra cooking time is needed compared to grilling fully thawed chicken. But it does cut down on the total time compared to grilling completely frozen chicken.

Marinades for Grilling Frozen Chicken

Using a marinade can infuse excellent flavor into grilled chicken, even when cooking it straight from frozen. To marinate frozen chicken:

  • Defrost just until surface ice crystals thaw.
  • Apply desired marinade and marinate overnight in refrigerator.
  • Grill as usual, allow extra time for safe cooking.

The brief partial thawing allows the marinade to penetrate the surface while the interior remains frozen. Excellent marinade options include:

  • Greek yogurt marinade with lemon, garlic, and oregano.
  • Soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger.
  • Chimichurri marinade with parsley, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.
  • Yogurt marinade with curry powder, garam masala, and cumin.

Marinating does help add moisture and tenderness to grilled frozen chicken. Just be sure to apply the marinade shortly after removing chicken from freezer for ideal absorption.

Should You Cook Frozen Chicken Low and Slow?

Yes, cooking frozen chicken over lower heat for a longer time is recommended. High heat can lead to burning the exterior before the inside cooks through. Moderate or medium-low heat allows time for the frozen chicken to cook through without charring the outside.

Aim for grill temperatures around 325-375°F and cook for approximately 50% longer than thawed chicken. Turn the chicken just once midway through grilling. Using lower heat and cooking to the proper internal temperature results in safe, tender grilled chicken.

How to Tell When Fully Cooked

It can be trickier to determine when frozen chicken is fully cooked compared to thawed. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Meat thermometer inserted in thickest part reads 165°F.
  • No traces of pink in the chicken’s interior when cutting into it.
  • Clear juices running from chicken rather than pink.
  • Meat has firmed up and is no longer rubbery in texture.

The best and safest method is using an instant-read thermometer to check multiple spots on the chicken. Undercooked chicken can harbor bacteria so always grill to the proper 165°F.

What If Chicken Starts Browning Too Quickly?

Even using moderate heat, frozen chicken may start to char or burn on the outside before the inside is fully cooked. If this happens, there are a couple remedies:

  • Move chicken to cooler part of grill to lower heat.
  • Flip chicken and sear second side 1-2 minutes then finish over indirect heat.
  • Brush chicken with oil or sauce to moisten exterior.
  • Tent chicken loosely with foil to shield areas from direct heat.

Managing the heat and shielding the chicken can help prevent it over-browning. Slow and low remains the best method for grilling frozen chicken.

Parts of Chicken Best for Grilling from Frozen

While any cut of chicken can be grilled from frozen, some hold up better than others:

  • Chicken breasts – Use caution as they dry out easily.
  • Chicken thighs – Very juicy and forgiving, do well from frozen.
  • Drumsticks – Require longer cook time but stay moist when frozen.
  • Wings – Need frequent turning but crisp and cook quickly.
  • Chicken kebabs – Defrost briefly to thread then grill as usual.

Bone-in cuts like thighs and drumsticks are great choices for grilling from frozen. Breasts can dry out if overcooked so monitor them closely.

Should You Grill Frozen Chicken on a Plank?

Grilling on a cedar plank prevents direct contact with the grill grates. This can be beneficial when cooking frozen chicken since it reduces risk of burnt exterior or dry meat. The plank also imparts a light wood-fire flavor.

Soak plank in water 1 hour before grilling. Place frozen chicken on soaked plank then grill over indirect heat, allowing extra time to cook through. The plank helps retain moisture in the chicken. Just watch closely to prevent plank from igniting.

Common Mistakes When Grilling Frozen Chicken

Even when taking precautions, grilling frozen chicken has risks. Watch out for these common grilling mistakes:

  • Using too high heat resulting in burnt outside.
  • Not cooking long enough leading to underdone chicken.
  • Flipping too frequently causing moisture loss.
  • Basting with sugary sauce that burns.
  • Not checking temperature leading to food safety issues.

Proper technique is required to avoid these pitfalls and achieve fully cooked, juicy grilled chicken from frozen. Patience and monitoring heat are key.

How to Maintain Juiciness When Grilling Frozen Chicken

Since frozen chicken can easily dry out on the grill, focus on a few key tips for maintaining juiciness:

  • Use moderate indirect heat around 350°F.
  • Cook chicken just until 165°F internal temperature.
  • Flip only once during grilling.
  • Allow chicken to rest 5+ minutes before cutting.
  • Baste chicken with sauce or oil near end of cooking.

Proper temperature monitoring is vital. Undercooking is unsafe but overcooking also leads to dry, tough meat. Allowing chicken to rest seals in juices.

What If Chicken Gets Too Dry During Grilling?

If despite your best efforts the frozen chicken still ends up a bit dry, these fixes can help:

  • Brush on sauce, oil or melted butter near end of cooking.
  • Shred or slice chicken and toss with sauce.
  • Make chicken salad or wraps to add moisture.
  • Use chicken in soups, stews or casseroles.
  • Chop chicken into cubes for kabobs or satay.

While grilling frozen chicken makes it prone to drying out, there are many ways to recover and impart extra flavor and moisture after cooking. Getting creative with sauces, chopping, or incorporating it into other dishes can compensate for any dryness.

Frozen Chicken Grilling Time Chart

Chicken Cut Thawed Time Frozen Time
Chicken breast (6 oz) 8-12 minutes per side 12-15 minutes per side
Chicken thighs (4 oz) 8-10 minutes per side 12-15 minutes per side
Drumsticks (4 oz) 12-15 minutes total 18-22 minutes total
Wings (3 oz) 8-10 minutes total 12-15 minutes total

This table provides estimated grilling times for common chicken cuts when cooking thawed versus frozen. Always rely on a thermometer for doneness.


Grilling frozen chicken requires paying special attention to ensuring it cooks through fully while avoiding burning or drying out. With the proper technique, temperature monitoring, and heat control, delicious barbecued chicken can be achieved straight from the freezer. While grilling thawed chicken may be easier, grilling frozen chicken is convenient and can produce safe, flavorful backyard barbecued meals.